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Amber Heard’s defense team raises lurid details of Johnny Depp’s alleged drug use

A man in a dark suit and tie gestures with his right hand while testifying in court
Johnny Depp sits for cross-examination Thursday at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Va.
(Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool via Associated Press)
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Under cross-examination Thursday, actor Johnny Depp launched a charm offensive that occasionally earned giggles from courtroom observers. His approach also clashed with embarrassing private texts, prior testimony and more being presented by the defense.

Using a barrage of text messages and emails, combined with testimony from Depp’s recent failed libel case against a British tabloid, Amber Heard’s attorney attempted to undercut the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star’s ample testimony given Tuesday and Wednesday.

In his direct testimony, Depp had painted a calm picture of himself as someone who had used drugs and alcohol, and detoxed from an opiate, but he said he was not a “maniac” who was dependent on substances.

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On Thursday, the defense presented several examples where Depp had lashed out physically at objects — including walls and fixtures — when he was frustrated.

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In texts from 2013 through 2016, Depp described his drug and alcohol use, as well as his capacity for various substances, with one of the mildest messages declaring, “I use marijuana a lot!!!” He testified that other messages referred to cocaine use.

Depp also slammed both Heard and his ex-girlfriend Vanessa Paradis in texts, referring to the latter woman as the “French extortionist.” The saltiest language — some of it referring to Heard — was silenced on Court TV, which is broadcasting the trial live.

Depp previously testified that he was embarrassed by his writings and apologized for them. “If you’re writing, there is no set place that you have to stay in,” he said Tuesday. “You can travel, and sometimes pain can be, has to be dealt with with humor. Sometimes very dark humor.”

The defense also played a recording of Depp moaning in pain as he attempted to detox from the opiate Roxicodone and talked about Depp and Heard’s time on his private island in 2014. At that time, Heard, private doctor and nurse were helping the actor manage his withdrawal with other medicines, and Depp had accused his ex of withholding medicines when he needed them.

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But defense attorney Benjamin Rottenborn read into evidence a message Depp had sent his mother-in-law, Paige Heard, after the detox.

In it, Depp wrote that without Amber, he “would have gone for a swim and swallowed up a big drink of ocean without her, to be honest” and said her participation “was an exercise of monumental patience and instinct.” He said he “couldn’t have made it without her” and “wouldn’t be alive” today.

The actor testified previously that he had given up on the island detox and completed it instead on his own — with medical supervision — over five days after returning home to L.A. and sending his then-wife and her friends to a hotel bungalow for the duration.

The defense also tried to paint Depp as a liar by submitting as evidence a February 2015 insurance questionnaire where Depp had affirmed that in the last 12 months he had not used “any illegal substances, whether prescribed by a physician or not.”

Depp said in court that he had been using marijuana, but disagreed with concurrent texts suggesting he had used cocaine. Regarding another text that talked about ecstasy tablets, Depp said Heard wanted him to obtain them for her ahead of her arrival in Australia, where Depp was shooting the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film.

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A blond woman leans over a desk to speak with three attorneys in a courtroom
Amber Heard speaks with her legal team in court Thursday.
(Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool via Associated Press)

Rottenborn dug into the story of the night Depp’s finger was injured at the house he was staying in in Australia. Though the actor testified Wednesday in detail that Heard threw a bottle that shattered on a bar and mangled his finger, the attorney kept saying Depp had cut his own finger off.

Depp later was shown an apology note to his doctor where he said, “I have chopped off my left middle finger as a reminder that I should never cut my finger off again.” The actor had just described that type of phrasing — cutting one’s own finger off — as getting straight to the point of what happened without getting into who caused the injury.

Depp admitted to dipping his finger in paint to write his “reminder” messages to Heard on the rec room wall once the blood on his injured digit had dried. He said it was part of the “kind of nervous breakdown” he was experiencing after losing his fingertip.

“This was no blackout. I know you love the word. It was no blackout. It was shock,” Depp said after Rottenborn asked if he remembered other damage that had occurred while the actor was, in the attorney’s words, blacked out.

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That was only one of the comments Depp managed to get in during cross-examination. On multiple occasions, perhaps intentionally, Rottenborn failed to hold the actor to yes or no questions.

Regarding Heard’s allegations of physical violence in the relationship, Depp “vehemently” denied head-butting Heard during an argument on Dec. 15, 2015. The actor said their heads might have made contact when he was trying to restrain his then-wife in a bear hug. Rottenborn then played a recording made after that incident in which Depp said to Heard that he had head-butted her. Depp said he had simply been using Heard’s terminology in the conversation.

The defense also introduced a text from Depp to Heard’s father, David, in which the actor said he had “gone too far” in a fight with Amber. Depp said that didn’t mean he had gone too far physically.

It was Depp’s second day of questioning by the defense in his $50-million defamation trial against Amber Heard, and he’ll face further cross-examination Monday. Heard has countersued her ex-husband, also for defamation, seeking $100 million. Witnesses supporting Heard will take the stand later in the trial, which is set to run Monday through Thursday for three more weeks.

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The defamation trial revolves around an opinion piece Heard wrote for the Washington Post in late 2018. In it, she said that in 2016, she “became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” Depp has alleged that she’s clearly referring to her much-publicized relationship with him.

Since taking the stand Tuesday, Depp has seemingly won over some fans seated in the courtroom with his quips and wry takes on what he’s being asked. When he said “Bless you” from the stand after a gallery member sneezed, soft laughter filled the room. He also has politely thanked Rottenborn repeatedly during questioning and tried to engage with him as if they were having a conversation.

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On Thursday, in response to a question about whether he had used a small box shown in a photo to tote cocaine, the actor replied, “No, but it looks like it would fit some cocaine. Cocaine is, in my experience, is normally given in plastic bags. When you put it in a box like that, chances are you’ll leave a trail, a long line of cocaine behind you as you walk down the street.”

When the gallery’s giggles subsided, Heard’s attorney presented testimony from 2019 in which Depp admitted using the box to hold cocaine.

A Court TV correspondent noted earlier this week that the jury, like Heard, has remained stoic in the face of Depp’s jokes.

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