ANDhe libel trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is underway in Fairfax, Virginia.
Depp sued Heard, his ex-wife, for alleged defamation due to an opinion piece he wrote in 2018 for Washington Post, in which she describes herself as “a public figure who represents family abuse.” Heard countersued her ex-husband, accusing him of allegedly orchestrating a “smear campaign” against her and describing her own lawsuit as a continuation of “abuse and harassment.”
Depp asked for US$50 million in damages; Heard asked for $100 million and immunity from Depp’s accusations. The trial is expected to last a total of six weeks.
Proceedings began Monday, April 11, in the Fairfax County Courthouse with jury selection. Seven jurors were chosen, along with four alternates who will be present to intervene should one or more of the original jurors need to withdraw. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the first witnesses took the stand, either in person or through video testimony. Witnesses included Depp and Heard’s former marriage counselor, Depp’s sister, some of his friends and Heard’s former assistant.
Shocking text messages
The evidence presented so far includes text messages allegedly sent by Depp about Heard, which contain offensive language.
On Wednesday, April 13, Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, asked Depp’s longtime friend Isaac Baruch: “Do you remember if Mr. Depp ever told you that he hoped Amber Heard’s decomposing corpse was decomposing? in the goddamn trunk of a Honda Civic?
Baruch pointed to a monitor displaying the message and said, “Yes. Well, I say yes, I’m looking at it here, so obviously, yes, he told himself. It was written”.
Bredehoft was then asked if Depp had referred to Heard as a “b***h” in their text messages.
“Well, it’s written there, so yeah, I could see it,” Baruch said, also reading from a monitor across from him. Taking issue with Bredehoft’s specific characterization of Depp’s words, he added: “That’s not what he’s saying, he’s saying, ‘That b***a ruined the cool life we had for a while.'”
The next day, Thursday, April 14, a video statement from Amber Heard’s former assistant, Kate James, was played in the courtroom as testimony.
James was asked about a text message allegedly sent by Depp to James in August 2016, which read, according to the transcript submitted into evidence: “Thanks, honey… I hate ever touching that scum… We’ll be back on Tuesday!!! And then… Court!!! I’ll let you know when I get back, doll… Come get some purple and we’ll fix her flabby bum, nice and pretty! With love… J.”.
During the interrogation it was suggested that “a little purple” was a way of referring to red wine.
When asked if James understood the text to refer to Heard, James first said it wasn’t her place to speculate.
He was then asked about earlier testimony he gave during the 2020 trial between Depp and The Sun in the UK, during which he was asked if the text was about Heard. At that time, she responded, according to a transcript read into evidence in Virginia: “Yes. Yes”.
In his latest testimony, which was shared in a video recording on Thursday, James said he had been “just trying to be helpful to the court at the time, having no idea what the hell was going on.”
Asked if the answer he gave in the UK was truthful or if he was just trying to be helpful, James said: “Just trying to be helpful.”
A video statement from Heard and Depp’s former marriage counselor, Dr. Laurel Anderson, was played on Thursday, April 14. She talked about her past sessions with the couple.
When asked if Heard had ever reported physical violence to her by Depp, Dr. Anderson said yes. When she was asked if she had seen photos, she said yes, but that she doesn’t remember when. When she was asked if “there was violence from Mr. Depp towards Amber”, she said: “Yes, you are right”.
“He had been well controlled for, I don’t know, 20, 30 years, and they were both abused in their homes, but I thought he had been well controlled for decades,” she added. “And then with Ms. Heard, it was triggered and they both engaged in what I saw as mutual abuse.”
sexual assault accusations
During opening arguments on Tuesday, April 12, Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, alleged that Depp sexually assaulted Heard with a bottle of liquor on one occasion.
Depp shook his head in court when Bredehoft recounted the alleged incident. His attorney, Camille Vasquez, challenged the sexual assault allegation in court. A spokesperson called the claims “fictitious” in a statement to The Independent.
Depp’s friend expelled as a witness
Gina Deuters, who is married to a member of Depp’s staff and is a close friend of the actor, gave testimony in person on Thursday, April 14.
She answered questions about Depp’s drug and alcohol use, telling the court that she had seen him use marijuana and cocaine occasionally, and that she had seen him drink alcohol. Deuters testified that she had never seen Depp be violent or act angry after using any substance or drinking alcohol.
At one point during her testimony, Heard’s legal team asked permission to approach Judge Penney Azcarate. The judge consulted with the attorneys and then sent the jury to a brief recess.
Judge Azcarate then asked Deuters: “Have you been watching the trial for the past week?”
Deuters responded: “I’ve seen clips online, yes.”
The judge then confirmed that Deuters had seen clips of witness testimony, after which she told Deuters that she was excused.
Deuters then had to leave the court, and Judge Azcarate said she would order the jury to reject Deuters’ testimony.