Amber Heard described ex-husband Johnny Depp as a Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde figure who vacillated from “unbelievably nice, sensitive, kind, warm, generous” to someone who became physically violent after drinking alcohol and using cocaine during her first day of testimony in the ongoing defamation trial in Fairfax, Virginia.
“He slapped me across the face, and I laughed. I laughed because I didn’t know what else to do. I thought it must be a joke,” Heard said, adding that the 2012 incident was the first time Depp physically abused her. “He said, ‘You think it’s so funny? You think it’s funny, bitch?’ Then he slapped me again. Like it was clear it wasn’t a joke anymore.”
Dressed in a navy blue pantsuit and wearing minimal makeup, Heard fought back tears while recalling a contrite Depp who began sobbing after the alleged incident. “I walked to the car. I didn’t say anything. I made a point to not say, ‘Oh, it’s OK’ or anything like that,” she said.
The Aquaman actress became the second witness in her defense in the $50 million defamation suit filed by Depp in 2019 over a Washington Post op-ed written by Heard and published in December 2018. In the essay, which the ACLU helped craft, Heard claimed she was a survivor of domestic abuse. Although she didn’t use Depp’s name in the piece, it was widely believed to be about the actor given details that coincided with the end of their marriage in 2016.
Depp’s side rested its case on Tuesday after three weeks of testimony from a series of witnesses who painted a picture of Heard as the abuser in their brief and volatile marriage. Earlier in the trial, Depp spent four days on the stand and recounted physical, verbal and emotional abuse he allegedly suffered at his wife’s hands and emphatically claimed he never hit Heard or any other woman.
The case includes a $100 million countersuit filed by Heard.
At times laughing and at other times on the verge of tears, the actress recalled the couple’s first flirtatious encounters in 2008 on the set of The Rum Diary and consummating the relationship more than two years later during that film’s press tour. “When I was around Johnny, I felt like the most beautiful person in the world. You know, made me feel seen. Made me feel a million dollars,” she said. “I fell head over heels in love with this man.”
With a quivering lip, the actress told the jury the toll that the case has taken on her. “I struggle to find the words to describe how painful this is,” she said. “This is horrible for me to sit here for weeks and weeks, relive everything.” Heard rarely looked in Depp’s direction, instead pivoting her gaze from the jury to her attorney. For his part, the Pirates of the Caribbean star avoided eye contact during Heard’s testimony, occasionally glancing at the monitor in front of him. He chuckled once when Heard described her version of taking off Depp’s boots. (Depp previously testified that the first red flag popped up when Heard insisted on taking off his boots in a controlling manner.) “I suppose that I took off his boots, and it made an impression on him,” she told the jury. “I was happy to, you know, do anything I can do to tell him how I felt about him. But if he wanted to take off his own boots, he certainly could.”
Heard’s first witness, Dr. Dawn Hughes, set up the actress’ eagerly anticipated testimony by claiming that the actress suffers from PTSD as a result of her relationship with Depp. That contradicted the assessment of Depp witness, Dr. Shannon Curry, who had evaluated Heard and diagnosed her with borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.
Heard began her testimony on Wednesday by describing her working-class upbringing in small-town Texas, where she hunted and fished and spent time with horses, where she learned to not “get intimidated, not show fear. Be tough and calm.” Her emotional testimony shifted to the Depp relationship, which she characterized as “always intense” and featured a pattern of abuse fueled by drugs and alcohol and jealousy.
“He would explode. He started doing things like destroying property and screaming at me,” he said. “He would grab me by the hair or he’d grab me by the arm. … And it started. Slapping. And it got to the repetitive slaps where he’d hold me in a position and slap like multiple times in a row.”
She said she confided what was going on in the relationship with her therapist and her mother because the alleged abuse was “very isolating.”
During a 2013 incident, she claimed on the stand that “he backhanded me,” resulting in “a little bit of blood on the wall.” She said she minimized the event at the time because “I’m not someone who complains about small injuries.”
Lawyers for the actress showed the jury a selfie Heard took with a bruise on her arm that she said she sustained after he grabbed her and “hit me on the face” multiple times. The jury also was shown a picture of a glass table with lines of white powder on it that Heard said was cocaine.
During a particularly dramatic moment near the end of the day, Heard described a 2013 incident in which Depp began looking frantically for his cocaine. She claimed that he ripped off her dress and underwear and proceeded “to do a cavity search.” Heard continued: “He just shoved his fingers inside me.”
Largely covering the early years of the relationship, Heard also described Depp as a then-boyfriend who denigrated actresses as “worthless whores” and insulted her based on the clothes she wore. She also detailed troubling behavior that often followed an accusation of infidelity.
“I woke up in the morning and he was the breakfast table covered with like cocaine and booze,” she said. “And I realized that … I wasn’t gonna be able to talk our situation down. I wasn’t gonna be able to talk him out of it. … And I remember people were reaching out — his assistants, his manager, sister, you know, everyone was wondering where he was and I kind of kept feeling embarrassed and unable to … calm him down. He was just so intent on me admitting the details of this affair that I wasn’t having and me pointing out that the cocaine wasn’t making the situation better.”
Likewise, a private plane ride to Russia ended disastrously after the couple took MDMA together alongside a female flight attendant, who became “friendly” with Heard while under the influence, causing Depp to become enraged. Heard said: “He grabs her hand and tells her not to touch me, and she kind of in a way, like defending herself and was trying to clarify. He grabbed her wrist and slammed the table and told her he could break her wrist. And I remember thinking, I’ve heard this before.”
Wednesday’s testimony upped the ante in an already dramatic trial that has laid bare scandalous behavior by both parties. And while Depp testified earlier in the trial that Heard defecated on his bed, she matched that visual with an equally revolting anecdote. “This man lost control of his bowels, and I cleaned up after him,” she said of his drug and alcohol use.
Heard’s testimony came in sharp contrast to Depp’s, with the actress speaking at a rapid clip with a great deal of emoting. Depp spoke slowly and calmly during his time on the stand last month and made wry quips when challenged by Heard’s legal team.
Heard is expected to remain on the stand all day on Thursday before the court goes dark until May 16. Judge Penney Azcarate has a previously scheduled conference. The actress is not expected to face cross examination until court resumes.