Johnny Depp alleges Amber Heard hit him repeatedly, details finger-disfiguring fight
On the witness stand Wednesday, Johnny Depp went into detail about his opiate detox and the violent argument with fellow actor Amber Heard that allegedly left him without part of the middle finger on his right hand.
Depp is suing his ex-wife for defamation, seeking $50 million after she described herself as a victim of physical abuse in a Washington Post essay. Heard has countersued, also for defamation, seeking $100 million. The civil trial, which started last week, is being held in Virginia, where servers for the newspaper’s website are located.
The trial, which is being broadcast live on Court TV, has featured witnesses supporting Depp’s side of the case, including the actor himself. Cross-examination of Depp began late Wednesday, and Heard’s witnesses will appear in the next phase of the trial.
In his second day of testimony, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star departed from Tuesday’s tales of his chaotic childhood and moved on to his life and volatile relationship with Heard. He continued with his long, sometimes rambling answers, delivered deliberately and slowly.
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“It appears that Depp’s lawyers are letting him tell his story in his own way,” attorney Rachel Fiset told The Times Wednesday. “He is providing long narratives to extremely open-ended questions. It appears that the strategy is for him to relate to the jury in a way that allows them to really get to know him.”
Fiset, managing partner of the L.A.-based law firm Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman, said attorneys usually seek more control over their witnesses, as detailed answers tend to give more fodder for the other side. But Depp’s attorneys are giving him the freedom to say what he wants in a way that looks less “legal,” she said. “If this approach could work for anyone, it would be a superstar like Johnny Depp.”
Most dramatic in the actor’s morning appearance was his story about a 2015 fight in Australia, where he was shooting the fifth “Pirates” movie. The altercation was sparked by Depp sending a lawyer to talk to Heard in L.A. about a post-nuptial agreement shortly after they were married, he said.
When Heard arrived from L.A., Depp said, she told him the attorney had been rude and had laughed at her after she insisted her husband knew nothing about the legal papers she was being shown. Those comments, Depp said, “put her into a tailspin.”
“She could not let go of the fact that I was ‘in’ on this post-nuptial agreement and I was trying to trick her into essentially getting nothing if something were to happen ...,” he said. “All I could do was try to calm her down and say I was not out to screw her over or put her into a position that was uncomfortable.”
But he alleged the situation quickly “turned into madness. Chaos. Violence.”
Depp described Heard as “irate” and “possessed” and said he tried to remove himself from the situation, ultimately locking himself into nine bedrooms and bathrooms in the house where he was staying as she pounded on the doors and hurled insults at him. Finally, he said, he heard her walk away.
Depp then went to the house’s rec room, which had a bar, he said. After what he called months of sobriety, he grabbed a bottle of vodka and poured himself two or three shots. Heard came into the room and started screaming that he was drinking again, then grabbed the bottle and “hurled it” at him, missing his head, he alleged.
Depp then grabbed a larger bottle of vodka and poured himself a shot, he said.
“She threw the large bottle and it made contact,” he said, gesturing toward his right hand, “and shattered everywhere. I honestly didn’t feel the pain at first ... I felt heat and I felt as if something were dripping down my hand. Then I looked down and realized that the tip of my finger had been severed and I was looking directly at my bones sticking out and the meaty portion of the inside of [my] finger.”
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Depp added, “I don’t know what a nervous breakdown feels like, but that was probably the closest I’ve ever been. Nothing made sense. I knew in my mind and in my heart, this is not life. This is not life. No one should have to go through this.”
At that point, he said, he started using his bloody finger to write things on the walls: “Little reminders from our past that essentially represented lies that she had told me and lies that I had caught her in.” He said he then hid in a bathroom and texted his doctor.
After looking emotionless for her ex’s previous testimony, Heard appeared to be fighting back emotions as she listened to Depp tell his version of their interaction.
Depp and his employees, including a nurse who had helped with his detox, tended to the wound, he said, and looked for his finger. At the emergency room, he lied to the doctor about what had happened, he said, so as not to implicate Heard. Depp said he had asked his team to get his wife on a flight back to L.A.
“I didn’t want to see her. I didn’t want to have any more arguments,” he said. “I was, for all intents and purposes — I was just done.”
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In court, Depp then looked at a photo of himself that had been taken in the emergency room and smiled slightly as he noticed a detail he said he had forgotten: “Ms. Heard had taken my cigarette from the ashtray and stubbed it out on my face, here.” He indicated a spot on the photo, which was not shown on the courtroom camera.
Depp’s team also introduced a photo of the actor, which he said was taken after he got a “roundhouse punch” from Heard. The photo, which was shown on camera, shows red marks on Depp’s cheekbone and was taken soon after the couple returned to L.A after surgery on his hand, he said.
Depp said the “Pirates” team had to use CGI to insert a “real finger” into the film, as he eventually finished shooting after undergoing surgery on his hand back in L.A. and was bandaged up. He said he used no opiates during his recovery, which apparently included a bout with MRSA, a drug-resistant bacteria.
Court then broke for lunch.
Before describing the drama in Australia, Depp had gone into detail about his struggle to detox from the opiate Roxicodone while on his private island with his doctor, his nurse and his then-wife. He said Heard was not helpful and deprived him of medications when he needed them — medications that would have made withdrawal less painful.
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He said he ultimately went home, put her and her friends up in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and detoxed over five days under medical supervision at home, without any additional drugs to help.
He also talked about why he stayed with Heard, despite their arguments.
“I stayed because of course I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, especially Ms. Heard. I didn’t want to break her heart,” Depp said. “I remember when my father left, my mother’s suicide [attempt], waking up to that — it was a direct result of my father leaving. Ms. Heard had talked about suicide before.”
Fiset, the attorney, said Depp might soon find himself in trouble in court.
“The issue will be on cross-exam where he is put on the spot and led,” she said. “He has provided so much information that it opens him up to a lot of leading questions that may make him look less credible.”
Cross-examination did begin late Wednesday, with Heard attorney Benjamin Rottenborn zooming in on the fact that Depp seemed to be complaining more about events that happened before Heard’s article was published, not about things the article itself said.
Under questioning, Depp admitted that he would not work for Disney again under any circumstances, after saying earlier in the day that Disney had released him from his recurring “Pirates of the Caribbean” role shortly after Heard’s piece was published.
Rottenborn asked him if he was aware of an article published months earlier by the Daily Mail that speculated Disney had cut him loose already. Depp said he was not aware of it.
“You never fought the allegations [of domestic violence] in court back in 2016, did you?,” the attorney asked. “It was only after Ms. Heard published this op-ed in 2018 that you fought them. You never tried to fight them in 2016.”
Depp said he’d been advised by his attorneys not to fight the statements at the time.
Rottenborn then brought Depp’s attention to his signature on a document that was part of his divorce settlement, in which he agreed to the terms of the joint statement the former couple released when they split. The statement included the phrase, “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain.”
Depp had said in his earlier testimony that he “wasn’t given much of a choice” but to agree to the joint statement.
Because of the ongoing litigation, obtaining a statement from Heard was not possible Wednesday. Cross-examination of Depp is expected to continue Thursday morning.
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