Former “Cinderella” Johnny Depp opened his testimony on April 19 by claiming his ex-wife Amber Heard’s abuse allegations against him, and later her Washington Post op-ed, had turned him into “Quasimodo” in the eyes of the media, essentially ruining his career. Depp said he was there to “clear my name” for both himself as well as his children, Lily-Rose, 22, and Jack, 20, from his former relationship with French singer Vanessa Paradis. “My goal is the truth,” he said. “I am obsessed with the truth.” On day two, he appeared in court in a three-piece gray suit and immediately dove into his relationship with Heard. He described their “heightened” arguments as “circular” with no way in or out. “I was sort of not allowed to be right, not allowed to have a voice,” Depp said of his arguments with Heard. “So at a certain point, what enters your mind is, you start to slowly realize that you are in a relationship with your mother, and I know that that sounds perverse, obtuse, but the fact is some people [search] for weaknesses in people.” The fights and arguments escalated to become violent, he said. “If I stayed to argue, eventually I was sure it was going to escalate into violence. Oftentimes, it did.”
Depp’s prior testimony from day one, which at many points felt Proustian, described an abusive childhood and drug use starting at age 11 to numb his pain. His mother, Betty Sue Palmer, was allegedly “quite violent,” sometimes flinging an ashtray or a high-heeled shoe. His father, John Christopher Depp, eventually left them. Despite taking drugs from a young age and throughout most of his adult life, Depp disputes that he ever would “party” with drugs: “I’ve never used the word party in my life.” Before delving into his relationship with Heard, Depp described his addiction to the opioid Roxycodone after getting hurt on set while filming the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean installment. He eventually went through withdrawal during his relationship with Heard, Depp said in his first day of testimony.
Depp continued to explain his relationship with substances on day two of testimony. When asked to describe how his relationship with Heard impacted his substance use, Depp said, “The constant haranguing breaks you down, and you know, there’s a part of you that says, ‘If I’m going to be accused of this, I may as well just do it.’” He said he was “more inspired by Ms. Heard to reach out for a numbing agent because of the constant clashes.” Because of his increased substance abuse and “clashes” with Heard, he claimed he went to a therapist to find out, “Am I an alcoholic?”
The conversation shifted to allegations of Depp striking Heard, apparently over a tattoo. He presented a far different version of the dispute over his “Winona Forever” tattoo, which he would later alter to read “Wino Forever,” from the one Heard’s lawyers had portrayed during opening statements. Heard’s team had accused him of abusing Heard when she took issue with the tattoo, which was from his time dating the actress Winona Ryder.
“It didn’t happen. I have never struck Ms. Heard,” he said. “I’ve never struck a woman in my life and certainly not going to strike a woman if she decides to make fun of a tattoo that I have on my body.”
Then came the bloody severed-finger story. Depp detailed the alleged assault, which has become a flash point of his abuse allegations against Heard. He said that Heard, upset about discussion of a postnuptial agreement, threw a bottle of vodka at him in a rage after she saw him drinking, severing the tip of his finger. The alleged incident, which affected his right middle finger, took place in Australia in 2015, coinciding with the production of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
“First of all, I felt no pain whatsoever,” Depp said. “I felt heat, and I felt as if something were dripping down my hand, and then I looked down and realized that the tip of my finger had been severed.” Blood, he said, “was just pouring out.” Depp felt as close to having a “nervous breakdown” as he had ever felt. “I started to write with my blood, in my own blood, on the walls, little reminders from our past that essentially represented lies that she had told me, lies that I caught her in,” he said.
His attorneys admitted several graphic photos into evidence showing the injury. One photo shows Depp lying on a hospital gurney with several surgical drapes on him and what appears to be a bloody bandage. Another image shows a close-up of his finger, which appears to have a large chunk missing. Depp, who was pictured smiling at the airport following this injury while he was en route to California for treatment, said that he had to keep his hand bandaged while filming the remainder of the fifth Pirates installment. Postproduction had to find a way to edit out his injury. “They would put little green dots, for example, on the splint and the finger and all that, and the bandages, so that in postproduction they could use what’s called computer-generated imagery, CGI, to erase the bandage and … replace it with a normal finger. That’s how we finished the film.”
Depp continued to detail Heard’s alleged abuse after the lunch break. Several weeks after the finger incident, Depp said that she struck him with a “roundhouse punch.” Another time, Depp claimed Heard falsely accused him of headbutting her while he was trying to defend himself. As Depp described these allegations, Heard appeared to be holding back tears at certain points. Depp demonstrated his defensive moves with his hands while on the witness stand.
Depp was then asked about April 22, 2016 — the date of Heard’s 30th birthday party and the time of another alleged event. Depp had a business meeting that wound up running long, where he learned of a severe financial loss, so he arrived at the party nearly two hours late. Heard harangued him, Depp claimed, resulting in an altercation afterward in their bedroom.
“Go ahead, hit me,” he claimed to have told her. On the stand, Depp made a punching motion and exclaimed, “Bam!” “And I just said: Is that what you wanted? Or would you like another one?” Depp made the punching gesture again. “Bam!” After the incident, Depp said he went to his other house (Depp’s testimony has been riddled with not-so-subtle indicators to the wealth underscoring his life and relationships), stating, “I’m out.” That weekend, Heard left town for the Coachella music festival, and while she was gone, Depp was informed there had been fecal matter left on their bed. Referring to it as “a grumpy,” Depp maintained it was from a human and not the couple’s two small dogs.
When describing Heard’s abuse allegations, which came days after she filed for divorce, Depp said he lost “nothing less of everything.”
The abuse allegations consumed Depp when he went on tour in late May of 2016, so much so that after gigs, “I just sat in the back of the bus and cried.” He confided in some longtime friends such as Tim Burton, Alice Cooper, and Joe Perry. Depp said he wanted to defend himself from Heard’s allegations during divorce proceedings but that he was advised not to: “I wanted to fight it, because there wasn’t an ounce, not a grain, not a molecule of truth to it.”
It was hard to understand whether Depp’s testimony and the trial was anything more than a nihilistic exercise. In order to win his case, Depp has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he didn’t abuse Heard. Given that their former marriage counselor described them as engaging in “mutual abuse,” that wouldn’t seem to be an easy sell. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether Depp instigated violence or Heard did. If a jury decides there is mutual abuse, that would mean neither Heard nor Depp lied about being abused.
“This isn’t a criminal case where there’s a self-defense defense, a stand-your-ground defense,” said Neama Rahmani, a former assistant U.S. Attorney and the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers. “So these two attacking each other and being involved in a violent, volatile relationship doesn’t give Johnny Depp a win.”
“The way this is heading, I could see the jurors just being like, ‘Look she was a victim of domestic violence. Heard, you also attacked Johnny. We’re not going to award anything,’” said Rahmani. “Or ‘We’re going to award a nominal amount.’ Clearly, this is consistent with the evidence these two were violent with respect to one another.”
This is a developing story and will be updated throughout.