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Johnny Depp was ‘cowering’ as Amber Heard yelled at him, a witness for Depp testifies

A man in glasses sits on the witness stand behind blurry images of two men conversing in the foreground
Morgan Knight, the former owner of the Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree, Calif., testifies Tuesday in a Virginia court as a rebuttal witness for Johnny Depp.
(Jim Watson / Pool / Associated Press )

The protracted defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard got a little spicy Tuesday as two of Depp’s rebuttal witnesses contradicted some of Heard’s harshest allegations.

The former owner of the Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree, Calif., which Heard said was the site of one of Depp’s alleged sexual assaults, testified that he saw Depp “cowering” and “almost afraid” of Heard as she yelled at him the night the couple spent at his place.

Depp had rented the collection of vintage trailers for the night back in May 2013 and was given the keys to the oldest trailer, according to onetime owner Morgan Knight. About a dozen people — mostly “youngish hipsters,” Knight said — eventually joined the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star and the “Aquaman” actor.

“Mr. Depp was super curious and really nice,” Knight testified on the witness stand, saying he gave the couple a tour and saw them 45 minutes to an hour that night while he did his rounds.

In court Tuesday, an executive said the studio considered recasting the role of Mera because Amber Heard and Jason Momoa lacked ‘chemistry.’

“He was also really interested in my innkeeper because she was a musician, so they would talk about music a lot. At one point the innkeeper, who lived at the next-door property, went and grabbed her guitar and they sang a song or two around the campfire.”

Heard, however, seemed annoyed that Depp wasn’t paying attention to her, Knight said. At one point he was speaking to Depp one on one and Heard said she wanted to talk to her then-boyfriend.

“She started yelling at him, and I didn’t want to hear it. Honestly, it was really triggering because I’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship before,” Knight said before being cut off by an objection from Heard’s team.

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“He was kind of cowering and seemed almost afraid,” he said, “and it was really odd to see because he was older than her, obviously.”

Knight said Depp — who, like the others, eventually appeared intoxicated — became quieter and quieter as the evening went on.

If Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard for defamation just to prove that there are people who still think he’s a big movie star, he’s won. But at what price?

“At the end of the night, I heard a commotion,” Knight said. “I was inside the house and came out. I couldn’t tell what was going on. Mr. Depp and Ms. Heard were having a discussion about I’m not sure what.”

The next day, he said, he got word that there was damage in the ‘50s-era trailer where Depp and Heard had stayed. Pieces had been broken off a sconce in the bedroom, though the fixture was still hanging from the wall. Knight said he was relieved to learn that was the only damage and that Depp’s people paid back the $62 it cost him to replace that sconce and another that matched it. He said there were no additional cleaning charges levied after the Depp-Heard visit.

In her first day on the stand, earlier this month, Heard testified that Depp had trashed the trailer while screaming at her and appearing to search for something, throwing glasses, sweeping tabletops clear and breaking the sconce with his hand. She said she hid in the bathroom and when she emerged, he asked her, “Where it is and how long I’ve been hiding it?”

Then, she testified, Depp allegedly tore her clothes off and performed a “cavity search” on her, hunting for a missing bag of cocaine.

Johnny Depp was set to take the stand Monday as a witness for Amber Heard, but her team pivoted. Kate Moss is listed as a rebuttal witness for her ex.

Heard’s team on Tuesday brought up the fact that Knight had tweeted a reply to a Depp fan Twitter account after Heard’s testimony, saying, “That never happened. I was with him all night. Amber was the one acting all jealous and crazy.”

Knight was also asked how he felt about participating in the trial, with the implication that he was appearing because he knew cameras were broadcasting the trial worldwide.

“I’m happy to tell what I saw and that’s the extent of it,” he said. “I really don’t care outside of that.”

Also on Tuesday, Jennifer Howell, the CEO and founder of the nonprofit organization Art of Elysium, testified via videotaped deposition that she recognized an email exchange she’d had with Whitney Henriquez, Heard’s sister, in 2020. Henriquez is the only eyewitness to the violent behavior that Heard alleges she experienced at Depp’s hands. Depp testified previously that he never struck Heard.

Howell said she wrote the email to Henriquez — formerly a very close friend who had lived with her for more than a year — because she had “struggled very much with what to do in a situation that, I loved someone very much who is doing something wrong, and I know that they’re doing it because they’re trying to protect their sister.”

The possibility of facing the financial and psychological costs of a defamation lawsuit can result in some survivors choosing to remain silent.

Howell said she was trying to get Henriquez to tell the truth. It was unclear whether the email in question would be allowed into evidence.

Depp’s rebuttal case also included witnesses aimed at refuting Heard’s allegations of damages that she says ensued after three comments made by former Depp attorney Adam Waldman. Those comments, allegedly representing the views of the actor, are the core complaint in Heard’s $100-million defamation countersuit. Depp is seeking $50 million from his ex-wife.

Among those who testified Tuesday was Warner Bros. executive Walter Hamada. He testified that the studio had considered recasting Heard’s role in the film “Aquaman” because the “chemistry” between her and co-star Jason Momoa had to be created in post-production, rather than happening between them naturally when they filmed.

Heard testified previously that she had to “fight” for the role because of blowback after getting a temporary restraining order against Depp when they split up.

The Depp/Heard trial continues this week in Virginia, with closing arguments expected Friday.


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