Johnny Depp Wraps Defamation Testimony: ‘Yes, I Am’ a Domestic Violence Victim

Depp Heard Lawsuit - Credit: Steve Helber/AP Images
Depp Heard Lawsuit - Credit: Steve Helber/AP Images

In his final day on the stand in his $50 million defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard, Johnny Depp told the court “the only person that I have ever abused in my life is myself.”

After a three-day break in which the court was dark, the seven-person jury listened to a series of audio recordings — often chaotic and difficult to decipher — that included a Depp prediction that Heard “will hit the wall hard,” a phrase that also appeared in a text message written by the actor that was introduced to the court.

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“You heard Ms. Heard say, ‘Get off me,” right?” Heard attorney Ben Rottenborn asked Depp.

“No I didn’t. I heard screaming and ‘I’ll talk to you later, I’ll talk to you later,’” Depp replied.

At another point, Depp said Heard made “grossly exaggerated” statements.

With the the six-week trial about a third of the way over, Depp appeared to be shaken in the first hour as Rottenborn presented him repeatedly with damaging text messages that painted a picture of a movie star who abused drugs and alcohol and was bent on revenge. One text message written by Depp read: “She’s begging for total global humiliation. She’s gonna get it. … I have no mercy, no fear and not an ounce of emotion or what I once thought was love for this gold digging, low level, dime a dozen, mushy, pointless dangling overused flappy fish market … I can only hope that karma kicks in and takes the gift of breath from her … Sorry man … But NOW I will stop at nothing!!! …

But the Pirates of the Caribbean star regained his footing as he pushed back on Rottenborn’s rapid-fire questions. “[The only person with] a problem with my drinking at any time in my life was me,” Depp said. “The only person that I have ever abused in my life is myself.”

Depp’s testimony marked his fourth and final day on the stand in a riveting trial that centers on a December 2018 Washington Post op-ed written by Heard in which she claimed to be a survivor of domestic violence. That op-ed prompted Depp to sue Heard for defamation in Virginia, citing irreparable harm to his career. In an effort to paint a picture of a Depp career already in free fall before the op-ed, Rottenborn read a series of headlines that portrayed the actor as out-of-control, including Rolling Stone‘s The Trouble With Johnny Depp.”You should read the last one,” Depp deadpanned about the story, which follows him on a 72-hour bender in London, drawing laughs from the courtroom.

During redirect, Depp’s attorneys asked him about his reaction to Heard’s op-ed, which came two-plus years after their split. “It was like somebody hit me in the back of the head with a two-by-four,” he said. “I had no ability to speak … because even if I had done an interview to try to explain myself, it turned into a hit piece. So my mouth was shut.”

Depp’s team also used their redirect to contextualize some of the more disturbing text messages introduced last week, including an exchange between Depp and his friend, the actor Paul Bettany, in which Depp suggested “burning” and “drowning” Heard, who was referred to as “the witch.” Depp explained that the text was a riff on a Monty Python sketch and was “just irreverent and abstract humor.” Depp’s attorney asked about Heard’s relationship with Bettany, which Depp described as “abominable.” He noted that Heard disliked Bettany “mainly because we had become such close friends and, for her, he was a threat.”

Depp described the tension between the two: “When we were [in the Bahamas] with Mr. Bettany, his wife [actress Jennifer Connelly], and his four children, Ms. Heard and Mr. Bettany got into some debate over lunch, and I just remember whenever Mr. Bettany tried to make a point she would talk over him. Then it started to get quite rude. She got mean. And she got loud,” Depp testified. “And then his — I believe it was his 18-year-old boy, who was getting ready to go to a really — a very bright, brilliant kid — he entered the conversation, because this was something to do with what he’d studied in school and he knew quite a lot about it. And he voiced his opinion, and Ms. Heard demeaned that young man to the point of where he burst into tears and walked away.”

Bettany is expected to testify later in the trial on behalf of Depp.

Depp’s team also played audio for the jury that bolstered his claim that he was a passive participant in their frequent arguments. In one such clip, the actor calmly tells his wife that he is leaving the room and the actress refuses to allow him to exit. Depp also testified that Heard asked him to violate a temporary restraining order she had filed against him so she could meet with him in San Francisco. He acquiesced, but the meeting did not go well.

“I was quite confused as to why I had been summoned to her at that point, since all the news was just about the fact that I had allegedly done all these horrible things to her,” he said. “So I was talked into going there, I went and met with her in hopes that she would retract her lies that the world had been fed. And in no way was she ready to do that. And I couldn’t understand why I was there — everything had been taken from me, my children couldn’t escape the fact that all this had gone down.”

Depp’s team wrapped its redirect with one final question for the actor: “What did you say in response when Ms. Heard said, ’Tell the world, Johnny. […] Tell them, ‘I, Johnny Depp, a man, [am] a victim too of domestic violence.’ ” He told his attorney: “I said, ‘Yes, I am.’” With that, he headed back to his seat next to his attorneys, one of whom patted his back and congratulated him.

In a plot twist that unfolded after court adjourned last Thursday, makeup company Milani Cosmetics issued a statement via social media that appeared to refute one key allegation made by Heard’s legal team. During opening statements, Heard lawyer Elaine Bredehoft made a dramatic showing for the jury of a Milani makeup palette that allegedly was used by the actress to cover bruises sustained at Depp’s hands following a May 2016 incident, and that Depp’s team noted were not visible in multiple photos and videos following the incident.

“This is what Amber carried in her purse for the entire relationship with Johnny Depp,” Bredehoft told the court while showing the compact. “This was what she used. She became very adept in it. And you’re going to hear the testimony from Amber about how to mix the different colors for the different days of the bruises as they developed and the different coloring and how she would use these to touch those up to be able to cover those.”

On Thursday night, the makeup maker posted a 15-second video to its official TikTok account to note that the palette in question, the Milani Conceal + Perfect All-in-One Correcting Kit, wasn’t launched until December 2017, more than 18 months after Depp and Heard’s last known interaction.

“You asked us … let the record show that our Correcting Kit launched in 2017!” the company wrote in a caption that accompanied the post.

It is unclear whether or not Depp’s team will call anyone from Milani to the stand.

A Heard source took aim at Milani for its post, which had been viewed more than 3 million times as of midday. on Monday. “Ms. Heard’s lawyer was using an example of the kind of makeup that she used, but it’s a sad day when a makeup company uses that as an opportunity to make light of what victims of domestic violence have to do to hide the results of the abuse they endure,” the source said in a statement to Rolling Stone.

Halim Dhanidina, a partner at Werksman Jackson who is currently working on Harvey Weinstein’s criminal case in Los Angeles, has been watching the Depp v. Heard trial. He says both sides have scored points so far in the cutthroat trial, in which both Depp and Heard claim to be victims of abuse at one another’s hands. “What makes it interesting to me is that you have all of these allegations of criminal conduct going back and forth, and those allegations are actually going to be of key importance to the ultimate legal issues and the resolution of the civil question of whether a defamation has occurred or not,” he says. “So, there’s a lot to unpack. The question is not necessarily whether elements of a certain crime have been established by proof at trial but rather whether that evidence that is presented is sufficient to establish the defense of truth, of defamation.”

Adds Dhanidina, a former prosecutor and judge: “It’s, it’s just one of those cases where every time you read a news report about it, and you’ve seen this, there’s new allegations coming out. From the beginning, it’s had a bit of a tit-for-tat feel where each side will up the ante by making new allegations. So, an important part of looking at this case has to do with witness credibility. This case relies almost entirely on who the court finds is telling the truth.”

Heard, who has been in the courtroom every day since the trial began on April 11, will testify sometime after Depp’s side wraps its case.

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