Key revelations so far in the Johnny Depp v Amber Heard defamation trial

After almost a month of proceedings, Amber Heard’s trial for defamation in a case brought against her by ex-husband Johnny Depp is taking a break for a week.

Court will resume at 9am on 16 May with Judge Penney Azcarate again presiding, as Ms Heard continues her testimony for a third day.

Ms Heard is being sued by Mr Depp for $50m for implying he abused her in a 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post. Although she didn’t name him in the article, he claims her allegations have impacted his ability to land major movie roles.

In 2020 Mr Depp lost a UK defamation case against The Sun after the British tabloid branded him a “wife-beater”. In that case, both he and Ms Heard also took the stand as witnesses — as did others who are testifying in the current trial. However, this time, a round of fresh video depositions and in-person appearances in the witness box are all being streamed live for anyone to watch.

To say some of the revelations have been shocking is an understatement, and some of the testimony has been harrowing.

The differences in the recollection of events are staggering and at some points the timelines have been confusing — not helped by years passing since, and the alleged volume of alcohol and drugs involved during the approximately four-year-long relationship.

Nevertheless, a lot has been revealed about the couple and their lives, both together and apart. Here’s what was learned by the end of week four of the trial.

Johnny Depp’s childhood abuse

Mr Depp spoke out about his childhood, alleging that he and his siblings suffered abuse at the hands of his mother, saying it mirrored his relationship with Ms Heard.

“[She] had the ability to be as cruel as anyone can be,” he said of his mother, noting that this also affected his siblings and father. “She was quite violent and she was quite cruel.”

Mr Depp said “an ashtray” could be “flung at you”, and claimed that his mother would hit her children in the head and that sometimes she used a “high heeled shoe or a telephone or whatever was handy”.

The actor claimed that the family had been shell-shocked and that his siblings would instinctively shield themselves when their mother walked past because they “didn’t know what was going to happen”.

He described his father, meanwhile, as “kind”, “shy” and “stoic”. It was also alleged in the court testimony that Mr Depp’s father used to beat him with a belt at his mother’s behest.

The beginnings of the relationship

Ms Heard described first meeting with Mr Depp in 2008 before filming the movie The Rum Diary. After auditioning a couple of times, she was asked to meet with him.

“We talked about books, and music, poetry. We liked a lot of the same stuff, obscure writers … pieces of poetry I hadn’t heard anyone else reference,” she told the jury.

“I thought it was remarkable. I left there, just feeling ‘wow’,” she said, adding that she was told that Mr Depp would be calling her.

Ms Heard said she didn’t encounter him much on the set of the film in 2009 until the two of them were set to film a kissing scene. “It didn’t feel like a normal scene anymore, it felt more real,” she said. “He grabbed my face and pulled me into him and really kissed me.”

She told the jury how she had visited him in his trailer after the scene: “He kind of picked up the back of my robe with his boot and I kind of turned around and giggled … He kind of playfully pushed me down on this bed, sofa. Playful and flirtatious. And he said, ‘Yum.’ And kind of lifted his eyebrows up like that.”

“I felt chemistry, I felt this other thing that went beyond my job, for sure. Johnny clearly felt that way about me,” Ms Heard testified. “But at the same time we were both in relationships and it is a job.”

She said Mr Depp would send her gifts and invited her to his home, but they didn’t see each other again until the 2011 press tour for the movie when they were both recently separated. She visited him in his hotel room in London where they kissed again.

“We sat on the couch and talked. Drank red wine. It felt like there was electricity in the room. I got up and as I left, he grabbed both sides of my face as he did when we were filming that scene and he kissed me and I kissed him back,” she testified.

And she added: “We fell in love. We were traveling around talking about this movie that we participated in together. We spent the night together in my hotel room and for the rest of the press tour.”

They officially began dating in 2012 and married in early 2015. She filed for divorce less than 18 months later.

Key locations in the relationship

The locations mentioned in court certainly reflect the jet-set lifestyle expected of a Hollywood couple. London, Tokyo, Puerto Rico, the Gold Coast, New York, the Bahamas, and of course Los Angeles were all featured.

The operation and layout of Mr Depp’s private island in the Bahamas was detailed in the prosecution case, with its manager testifying about the couple’s wedding, guests, and fights.

In Ms Heard’s testimony, she clarified the couple’s living situation in Los Angeles. Mr Depp owns four houses on a cul-de-sac at the end of Sweetzer Avenue in West Hollywood off Sunset Boulevard that they referred to as simply “Sweetzer”, and which includes a recording studio.

When they began dating, Ms Heard lived in the upper portion of a duplex they refer to by its street, “Orange”, but she soon moved in with Mr Depp because of security concerns — though she pointed out that they both travelled so much for work they were often not in LA.

However, when they were, the couple was largely together at the five penthouses Mr Depp owned in the Eastern Columbia Building, a luxury condominium in a converted art deco department store in Downtown Los Angeles.

Three of the units were interconnected, and the semi-communal space was also occupied by Ms Heard’s sister Whitney, Heard’s best friend at the time, Rocky Pennington, and her partner, in addition to the couple.

Another unit was kept open for guests and the fifth was occupied by Depp’s artist friend Isaac Baruch, who testified early in the trial — as did the building manager, and most memorably, the concierge.

It was at the penthouses that some of the most significant incidents of alleged violence occurred in addition to those told to the court in the Bahamas, Australia, and after the Met Gala in New York.

Drinking and drug use by both

Ms Heard’s legal team has zeroed in on Mr Depp’s drinking and use of drugs as well as his struggle with prescription medication as a key part of the defence of their client.

She testified that she would take pictures of him passed out because he would forget or deny what he did when he was drunk or blacked out. Ms Heard’s lawyers argue Depp’s denials of abuse lack credibility because of these blackouts.

Ms Heard said that Mr Depp surrounds himself with an entourage of enablers who would clean up after him and shield him from any consequences of his drinking and drug use. This came after a host of witnesses for Depp testified his alcohol use was greatly exaggerated and he handles alcohol well.

Witnesses for Mr Depp also implied Heard also drank too much, noting her love of wine, with Mr Depp’s business manager saying the wine bill dropped from $160,000 to almost zero after the couple broke up. Their house manager in London said two bottles of red wine would be consumed per day but he did not recall seeing Mr Depp drink.

Ms Heard is also alleged to have taken MDMA and magic mushrooms at various points, but denied asking Mr Depp to procure her the former for the trip to Australia, where she estimates he took eight to ten tablets in one session.

She also alleged a pattern of alcohol and drug abuse that fuelled erratic behaviour, including holding his dog out of the window of a moving car and accusing her of having an affair she said she didn’t have.

“Johnny on speed is very different from Johnny on opiates. Johnny on opiates is very different from Adderall and cocaine Johnny, which is very different from quaaludes Johnny, but I had to get good at paying attention to the different versions of him,” she said.

MR Depp has claimed that he does not have an alcohol problem but admitted to having a problem with opiates for which they both testified he sought treatment.

Differing accounts of the Australia fight and the severed finger

Ms Heard and Mr Depp have both testified about what they each allege happened during a violent incident in Australia in early 2015 when the latter actor severed his finger.

This has been a key point of the trial, with Ms Heard and Mr Depp each sharing lurid accounts, which differ wildly over how the end of his middle finger was cut off.

Ms Heard has said she was not awake when the injury happened and only saw the aftermath; Mr Depp has alleged his finger was injured when Ms Heard threw a vodka bottle in his direction and it made contact, leaving bone protruding.

Mr Depp then scrawled blood and paint across mirrors and lampshades causing a huge amount of damage to the house they were renting, as also confirmed by staff members in their testimony.

Ms Heard has alleged that Mr Depp sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle that night. Mr Depp has denied assaulting Ms Heard.

How the op-ed was conceived and vetted

As to the op-ed on domestic violence at the centre of the trial, Ms Heard purportedly wanted a section pointing to her relationship with Mr Depp put back in after edits were made by lawyers to remove references to the marriage.

In a pre-recorded deposition filmed in December, Terence Dougherty, the chief operating officer and general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told the jury how in-house counsel for the ACLU helped draft and review the article for Ms Heard.

One email to Ms Heard from the ACLU shown to Mr Dougherty stated: “Your lawyers should review this for the way I skirted around talking about your marriage,” adding that they hope that it doesn’t interfere with the non-disclosure agreement Ms Heard signed in connection to her divorce.

Another email shown in court refers to Heard supposedly expressing a desire to “artfully” reinsert sections referring to obtaining a temporary restraining order from her “then-husband” two years previously. But said she was okay with the final draft if that was not possible.

The article was then published by The Washington Post and soon after other media outlets connected it to Mr Depp.

Differing medical opinions on Amber Heard’s mental health

Two psychologists have testified as to the mental health of Ms Heard — one for each side in the trial.

For the prosecution, Dr Shannon Curry testified that she met with Ms Heard twice for a total of 12 hours and that “the result of Ms Heard’s evaluation supported two diagnoses – borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder”. She also said Ms Heard showed no signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dr Curry said Heard “externalises blame” and can be “self-righteous”, “judgemental” and has anger, adding that there’s a “desperate fear of abandonment” among those with borderline disorder and that the reaction to that is to try to keep a significant other close and this behaviour can become extreme. This supported other testimony that Heard was violent against Depp and wouldn’t let arguments drop.

However, testifying for Ms Heard was Dr Dawn Hughes, who said the actor does suffer from PTSD stemming from domestic violence at the hands of Depp, but also from prior abuse as a child.

Dr Hughes said she spent 29 hours with Heard over Zoom and in her New York City office and that she saw no evidence to suggest personality disorders. She also dismissed the idea that the couple expressed signs of “mutual abuse” as their marriage counsellor had said.

Awkwardly, Dr Curry was seated in the front row of the court during Dr Hughes’ testimony.

Johnny Depp’s estimated career losses

Mr Depp lost $40m after the publication of Amber Heard’s op-ed, a forensic accountant testified shortly before the actor’s legal team rested their case.

Forensic accountant Michael Spindler told the court he analysed the time between 18 December 2018, when Ms Heard’s op-ed was published, and 31 October 2020 to determine how much income the actor may have missed out on as a result of the article.

Mr Spindler said MR Depp’s removal from the sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film was one of the main reasons for his estimation. Agent Jack Whigham testified that a $22.5m deal had been struck for the film.

In 2017, Mr Depp’s bookings amounted to “about $17.5m”, Mr Spindler said. They used that sum as a baseline for a “typical” year for the actor. The loss of the sixth Pirates film amounted to $20,250,000 in lost earnings, according to Mr Spindler, whose analysis laid out the $22.5m pay minus the pay for the agent. The additional $20m was an estimate for other projects.