Johnny Depp’s sister took the stand in his defamation trial and described their troubled childhood at the hands of their abusive mother.
Christi Dembrowski, 61, was called by Depp’s team to testify Tuesday and told the jury about their upbringing in Lexington, Kentucky by ‘high strung’ mother Betty Sue Palmer and ‘peaceful’ dad John Christopher Depp.
‘Father was a kind, patient, loving, gentle man. Our mom was the opposite, very high strung, very nervous, anxiety, angry,’ she said, adding that their parents were ‘two completely different personalities.’
Depp at times looked to the floor as his sister spoke. He appeared to be deeply moved as his older sister recounted their childhood together.
Betty Sue and John Depp divorced in 1978 when Johnny was 15 and Christi was 18.
Depp has described their family home as a ‘ghost house’, which helped turn him into a more ‘nurturing person’.
Betty died of cancer in 2016 aged 81. Depp got a tattoo of his mom’s name on his left arm in 1988. After his first Hollywood paycheck, he bought her a house.
Johnny Depp’s sister Christi Dembrowski, 61, took the stand in his defamation trial and described their troubled childhood
Depp at times looked to the floor as his sister spoke. He appeared to be deeply moved as his older sister recounted their childhood together
John ‘Jack’ Depp was absent for much of Depp and Dembrowski’s childhoods. He is still alive at 84 years of age.
At Betty’s funeral, Johnny Depp described his mom as the ‘meanest human being’ he has ever known. But he said she was ‘funny’ and the product of her own upbringing, which he said was difficult.
Betty even once threw an ashtray at her son.
Asked if there were occasions where Heard was not nice to Depp, Dembrowski said there was one that ‘really stayed with me.’
They were at Depp’s office and Christian Dior had called saying they were interested in working with Depp.
She said: ‘Johnny told Amber they were interested in him.
‘Her reaction to that was she was in disbelief and sort of disgust because she said Dior, why would Dior want to do business with you? They’re about class and style and you don’t have style. It was insulting, kind of taking away that one moment. That insult is there.
Christi Dembrowski, 61, was called by Depp’s team to testify and told the jury about their upbringing in Kentucky. Pictured together in an undated photo
Depp with parents Betty Sue Palmer (second from left) and John Christopher Depp (second from right) and ex Vanessa Paradis when Johnny received a star on the Walk of Fame in 1999
‘I’ve seen the insults, multiple times actually.’
Asked what Heard would say about Depp’s physical appearance, Dembrowski said she would call him ‘an old, fat man.’
Benjamin Chew, Depp’s lawyer, began the line of questioning.
Dembrowski admitted that she still works closely with her brother and has been called his ‘personal manager’ in the past.
‘Did mother get angry with father?’ Chew asked.
‘Yes,’ Dembrowski said.
‘How?’ Chew aske4d.
‘Mom would scream, yell at him, she would hit him, call him names, that kind of thing.’ Dembrowski said.
‘Did your father hit your mother back?’ Chew asked.
‘No, dad never reacted when mom hit him or screamed at him.’ Dembrowski said. ‘Basically he would let her scream and get it out and be done. The way you dealt with my mom, he always tried to keep the peace.’
‘How did your mother treat you and your brothers and sisters?’ Chew asked.
‘Similarly in how she treated dad. She screamed, she yelled, she hit, she threw things, she called us names. We each had our own set of names. Some we wouldn’t repeat. My name was Violet. Violet was my father’s mother and my mom hated my father’s mother,’ she said.
Like father like son: Johnny and dad John Christopher pose at Depp’s Walk of Fame ceremony
Though their relationship was difficult, Johnny does have a tattoo of mom Betty Sue’s name
Johnny – full name John Christopher Depp II – talks to his father at a Hollywood luncheon, 2005
John Christopher, a civil engineer, tried to ‘keep the peace’ in their home, Dembrowski said. Picture taken at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre luncheon in 2005, which he attended with his son
‘Did you mother have special name for Johnny?’ he asked.
‘She had a few, some to not repeat,’ Dembrowski said. ”One eye” was her favorite. Because when he was young the doctors thought had a lazy eye, they put a patch on his good eye to strengthen his other eye.’
‘Did Johnny respond?’ he asked.
‘Those names were just a way of life. We got used to them,’ Dembrowski said.
‘Did your mother get angry with you?’ Chew asked. ‘Physical?’
‘Yes, she did but I was also very quiet, very shy, I learned early on to step back. I would stay away from trouble,’ Dembrowski said. ‘She would hit us, threw things, go pick a switch off a tree, that would be what she’d hit us with. One that’s nice and green. If it wasn’t a nice green twig it wouldn’t break.’
Dembrowski added that her mother would get angry at Johnny and hit him as well.
‘How if at all did Johnny react when his mother would hit him?’, Chew asked.
‘He was a typical little boy, when hurt he would cry. For the most part he just wanted to get away from it,’ Dembrowski said, adding that he never hit his mother back.
‘When he was older even if she hit or threw things he never went to that place he would get away, he would leave the area, go to him room.’ Dembrowski said.
Dembrowski told the jury that she booked an extra hotel room for Depp and Heard whenever they traveled because Johnny would need to cool off alone when they got into an argument
Dembrowski said Amber Heard (pictured in court yesterday) would call Depp ‘an old, fat man’
Dembrowski told the jury that she booked an extra hotel room for Depp and Heard whenever they traveled.
She said: ‘When they were traveling I wanted to make sure there was an extra room because it wasn’t unusual for them to have an argument.’
Dembrowski added that Depp would be able to ‘leave the room’ as he did when he was a boy and his mother became abusive.
She said: ‘I saw a repeat happening in life. When we were kids in arguments and fighting would start to happen. Our first thing to do was go and hide and get away from it. I recognized what felt to me a repeat pattern from his childhood. I wanted to make sure there was a place he could do just that’.
When Dembrowski learned Depp was marrying Heard, she felt ‘scared’, she told the jury.
She said: ‘I was devastated actually it was going to happen as quickly as it was being pushed for. I actually tried to talk him into just waiting a little bit longer and not rushing’.
Dembrowski said that Depp’s team wanted Heard to sign a prenup to ‘protect his children’ but she wouldn’t do it – they got married without one.
This photo shown in court from May 2016 of Amber Heard with an apparently bruised cheek, which has been referred to as an exhibit
As part of Depp’s defamation case against Heard, he included images of his own bruised and battered face (pictured ) following Heard’s alleged attacks
Depp and Amber Heard are squaring up over a December 2018 op-ed Heard penned for the Washington Post declaring herself a domestic violence survivor.
The article did not mention Depp by name but the veteran actor sued for $50 million, claiming he was booted from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise because of the ‘clear implication’ he was the abuser.
Depp’s suit claims Heard presented the world with a ‘hoax’ account of the infamous May 21, 2016 dust up that brought the couple’s tumultuous marriage to an end, complete with faked injuries and crocodile tears.
He further alleges that his ex-wife was the actual ‘perpetrator’ of the violent bouts that scarred their relationship, including a notorious incident in Australia where she allegedly severed his finger with a vodka bottle.
Heard has countersued for $100 million, claiming vengeful Depp has waged a years-long smear campaign, using media allies and internet trolls to silence her and derail her acting career.
She stands by her claim that Depp hurled a phone in her face and viciously battered her during the fateful 2016 fight despite LAPD officers deciding there was no grounds to investigate.
The officers are among dozens of possible witnesses slated to give evidence either in person or via video link over the next six weeks, including Hollywood actors Paul Bettany, James Franco and Ellen Barkin.
Another intriguing name is Elon Musk whom Depp has accused of having an affair with Heard while they were still married, an accusation the Space X mogul has denied.
But as DailyMail.com revealed last week, the world’s richest man will likely swerve proceedings because he’s not a Virginia resident and therefore can’t be compelled to give evidence.
Depp is fighting an uphill battle to salvage his reputation after Britain’s High Court ruled against him last year when he sued The Sun newspaper for calling him a ‘wife beater’.
Depp’s team will cast doubt on photos of Heard’s injuries by calling upon forensic pathologists and computer experts to explain how the wounds don’t match up with the abuse described by the Aquaman actress
After weeks of testimony, Mr Justice Nicol concluded that the outlet’s 2018 article was ‘substantially true’ and that the father-of-two had attacked Heard a dozen times, causing her to fear for her life on three occasions.
The London court also heard a trove of shocking texts Depp had sent to Avengers star Bettany, vowing: ‘Lets burn Amber.’
‘Let’s drown her before we burn her !!!,’ he wrote in November 2013. ‘I will f**k her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she’s dead.’
Sources close to Depp say he never contemplated settling or dropping the US case and is desperate for a second bite of the cherry in Virginia where the London result will be kept from jurors.
Armed with a battery of highly-paid lawyers – including Kathleen Zellner of Making a Murderer fame – he’s confident of tipping the balance with additional evidence that didn’t feature in the ‘wife beater’ case.
DailyMail.com has led the world in revealing much of the material over the past two years, from explosive audio recordings to bombshell depositions and police videos.
The cache includes bodycam footage from LAPD officers who visited the ex-couple’s LA apartment on the night of the blowout 2016 fight.
Heard claims that her ex-husband assaulted her before smashing up their $1.5 million home – but his lawyers will argue the videos don’t show any trace of damage.
Depp’s team will also cast doubt on photos of Heard’s injuries by calling upon forensic pathologists and computer experts to explain how the wounds don’t match up with the abuse described by the Aquaman actress.
And they may also confront Heard with audio recordings in which she talks about hitting Depp and questions whether anyone would believe he was a domestic violence victim.
‘I can’t promise I won’t get physical again. God I f**king sometimes get so mad I lose it,’ she says in one clip, previously published by DailyMail.com.
‘Tell the world Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim too of domestic violence … see how many believe or side with you,’ she adds in a second.
Heard’s promise to give away her entire $7 million divorce settlement, splitting it between the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, will also come under the microscope.
DailyMail.com previously revealed that Depp’s lawyers subpoenaed both organizations last year to find out if they ever got the money.
They will tell jurors that the hospital got $100,000, rather than the promised $3.5 million, while the ACLU received just $450,000.
Another $500,000 came from someone named ‘Elon’, who Depp’s lawyers will say is Elon Musk.
Heard insists she will honor her pledge – but hasn’t been able to do so thus far because of the spiraling cost of her legal war with Depp.
Insiders believe the couple have each spent upwards of $20 million to date.
Depp and Heard met on the set of The Rum Diary in 2011, married four years later – then split in a little over a year amid a slew of blood curdling domestic violence allegations and tabloid headlines.
After finalizing their divorce in early 2017 the feud appeared to have fizzled until Heard published her December 2018 op-ed, headed: ‘I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.’
The article prompted Depp to file for defamation in Virginia, where the Washington Post’s servers and several of its offices are based, stating: ‘Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse; she is a perpetrator.’
Heard’s counterclaim argues that it’s both true that she suffered years of abuse at the hands of her ‘monster’ ex and that it’s her right to talk about it under the First Amendment.
Her lawyers will argue that various media statements made by Depp’s longtime ally and lawyer Adam Waldman branding her a liar and calling her claims a hoax were false, defamatory and designed to wreck her career.
She’s also accused Depp and Waldman of harassing her on Twitter, promulgating smear stories and using fake accounts and Russian ‘bots’ to amplify negative coverage, demanding twice as much in damages from her former husband.
According to confidantes it’s not about the money, however, it’s about Heard ‘reclaiming her voice’ and her ability to advocate for abuse victims.
If she succeeds, three-times Oscar-nominated Depp, the globally-famous star of more than 50 Hollywood movies grossing $10 billion, could lose his entire fortune as well as what’s left of his reputation.
But there’s no turning back now, according to his rep.
‘This case being brought to trial is proof that the court acknowledges the notable amount of preliminary wins, evidence and witnesses in support of Johnny,’ the spokeswoman said.
‘To decline the opportunity to clear one’s name and allow someone taking advantage of the system to walk away with zero repercussions would be careless and set a dangerous precedent for similar situations in the future.’