Amber Heard took the stand for her first day of testimony Wednesday in the dramatic libel case Johnny Depp filed against her, speaking through tears as she described the first time she alleges Depp turned violent against her.
“I will never forget it. It changed my life,” Heard told the jury, recalling sitting on the couch with Depp, having a “normal conversation” while Depp was drinking and smoking (Heard also hypothesized later that Depp was using cocaine at the time) when she asked what the tattoo on his arm meant. Depp told her it meant “wino.”
“I thought he was joking because it didn’t look like it at all,” Heard said. “I laughed because I thought he was joking and he slapped me across the face. And I laughed. I laughed because I didn’t know what else to do. I thought, ‘this must be a joke.’ I didn’t know what was going on. I just stared at him kind of laughing still, thinking he was going to start laughing too to tell me it was a joke. But he didn’t.”
Heard said Depp slapped her twice more. Though it didn’t hurt, she said she was left stunned he would do something like that.
“God, did he just hit me?” Heard recalled thinking. “I didn’t want to leave him … I know you don’t come back from that. I know you can’t hit a woman, you can’t hit a man. You can’t hit anybody. I knew it was wrong and that I had to leave him and that’s what broke my heart because I didn’t want to leave him.”
Depp began crying in the aftermath, Heard said. She eventually walked out and sat in her car for a while before driving home. He later apologized profusely and promised to “never lay a hand” on Heard again, she said. She “believed there was a line he wouldn’t cross again” and therefore stayed in the relationship.
As Heard continued her testimony, she alleged a pattern of Depp abusing alcohol and cocaine, displaying erratic behavior including holding his dog out the window of a moving car and accusing Heard of an affair she says she didn’t have, and physically abusing her. Depp focused his eyes downward for a majority of the testimony.
Depp is suing Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court, saying her 2018 Washington Post op-ed defamed him when she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” The article never mentions Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyers say he was defamed nevertheless because it’s a clear reference to abuse allegations Heard levied in 2016.
The trial has now entered its fourth week. Much of the testimony during the first three weeks centered on the volatile relationship between Depp and Heard. Depp says he has never struck Heard. Her lawyers said during the trial’s opening statements that she was physically and sexually abused by Depp on multiple occasions.
Heard begins testimony recalling ‘falling in love’ with Depp after filming ‘The Rum Diary’
The actress began her testimony by recounting details from her childhood and early days in Hollywood, including meeting Depp on the set of 2011’s “The Rum Diary,” and how their relationship progressed from colleagues and friends to eventual romantic partners after filming wrapped.
The two had “no contact” for a while after filming – Depp at one point called her and invited her to his California home, Heard said, but they didn’t end up seeing each other until the press tour for the film later on. Heard said it was then that they began “falling in love” but kept things under the radar because his split with ex Vanessa Paradis, with whom he shares two children, had not yet been publicized.
“When I was around Johnny I felt like the most beautiful person in the whole world,” Heard said, later adding “I fell head-over-heels in love with this man.”
As their relationship progressed, Heard said, Depp took issues with clothing she wore and expressed concern she was cheating on him with friends. And arguments began to turn ugly, Heard alleged, with Depp tossing around expletives, smashing glass or turning over a table before leaving and coming back as the “wonderful, almost unreal… unbelievably nice, sensitive, warm generous funny man that I loved,” she said.
“It was always intense. it didn’t become intense, it started that way,” Heard told the jury of their romantic relationship.
Heard testifying comes after a psychologist hired by her lawyers said on the stand that Heard suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from multiple acts of abuse, including sexual violence, inflicted on her by Depp.
Judge rejects Amber Heard’s motion to dismiss, more previous trial details
Depp wrapped up his own testimony last week, making his case to the jury that he would often withdraw from arguments with Heard to avoid any escalation.
“I would excuse myself from the situation,” Depp said. “I would try to get away so that nothing escalated because if given the chance to allow things to escalate, Ms. Heard would take it to the very extreme, which ended up with my finger being chopped off.”
After a judge Tuesday rejected Amber Heard’s motion to dismiss the suit, psychologist Dawn Hughes testified that Heard suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from violence she suffered at the hands of Depp, including multiple acts of sexual assault.
Hughes’ testimony contradicts that of a psychologist hired by Depp’s lawyers, who said Heard was faking her symptoms of PTSD and suffered from borderline and histrionic personality disorders. Hughes disputed that Heard suffers from any personality disorder.
Hughes was the first witness to take the stand on Heard’s behalf after Depp’s lawyers rested their case Tuesday morning. She said she based her testimony on 29 hours of interviews with Heard, as well as interviews with Heard’s therapists and a review of court documents.
Earlier this week, Depp’s agent testified that the actor’s ex-wife’s 2018 op-ed piece was “catastrophic” to his career and coincided with the loss of a $23 million deal for a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel.
Amber Heard’s lawyers pushed back aggressively against the agent’s assertion on cross-examination, suggesting that the article was inconsequential amid a stream of bad publicity for Depp brought on by his own bad behavior.
Johnny Depp completes trial testimony:‘If I don’t walk away … it’s going to be a bloodbath’
For Depp’s Virginia lawsuit to be successful, he not only needs to show that he was falsely accused, but he also needs to show that the op-ed piece — not Heard’s abuse allegations in 2016 when she filed for divorce and obtained a temporary restraining order — is what caused the damage.
The trial continues to capture public attention. More than 100 people were lined up Wednesday before 7 a.m. — the proceedings don’t begin until 10 a.m. — outside the courthouse for the 100 seats made available in the courtroom. Most are Depp supporters and fans.
Contributing: The Associated Press