On April 21, Amber Heard’s lawyers pushed back against Johnny Depp’s claims in court — confronting him with violent text messages and evidence of drug and alcohol abuse. His demeanor seemed to shift. Sometimes, Depp had a humorous air; at other times, he seemed somewhere between deadpan and defensive — like when he was asked if he had severed his own finger and used it to deface a painting by drawing a penis.
The Pirates of the Caribbean actor’s testimony stems from a years-long history of intense legal mudslinging. Heard had accused Depp of abuse in 2016, and she wrote generally of abuse in a Washington Post op-ed in 2018. Heard did not mention Depp’s name, but he sued her in May 2019, claiming he was the clear target of her piece and that her implications had ruined his career.
Heard’s lawyer Ben Rottenborn’s cross-examination came to include mentions of other high-profile pals, such as Elton John and Marilyn Manson, and several awkward moments of laughter in court. Many of the text messages in question — including those exchanged with Paul Bettany, in which Depp suggested he wanted to “burn” Heard — have been made public, but these missives were new to jurors. This was both a defensive and offensive strategy: Heard’s lawyers wanted to undermine Depp’s credibility and paint him as an out-of-control abuser. If they succeed, that foundation bolsters her counterclaim that Depp lied in denying domestic abuse, which, Heard claims, defamed her. (It sounds like a circular mess because it is.)
Things got stranger when Rottenborn asked about drug use. While Depp looked stern at times, he responded to some of the questions with wry one-liners. “One of your good friends that you’ve taken drugs with before is Marilyn Manson, right?” Rottenborn asked. (Manson has also been accused of abuse.) “Yes. We’ve drank together. We’ve had cocaine together maybe a couple of times,” Depp responded plainly. “I once gave Marilyn Manson a pill so that he would stop talking so much. Sorry,” Depp said, spurring chuckles in the courtroom.
When Rottenborn asked Depp about a photo from March 2013 showing whiskey and, potentially, cocaine, Depp said that he had “fallen off the wagon” when he was filming The Lone Ranger and that it was normal for there to be a glass of liquor on the table when he returned home. “You would sometimes drink whiskey in the mornings, too, right? During this time?” Rottenborn asked. “I mean, isn’t happy hour anytime?” Depp said, setting off light laughter in the room.
At one point, Heard’s attorneys played a video in which Depp appeared to be acting erratically. (Observers could hear smashing noises in the background but not see what was causing them in the video.) “I did assault a couple of cabinets, but I did not assault Ms. Heard,” Depp said. Cross-examination resumes on Monday.