Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard trial: A look at what happened in court this week
Johnny Depp’s $50 million libel trial against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, entered its fifth week, with Heard being cross-examined about the couple’s fights, her sister and friend backing her assault claims, and former close contacts of Depp charting the actor’s rise and fall.
Depp is suing Heard in Virginia for libel over an op-ed she wrote in December 2018 in The Washington Post, headlined: "I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change." Heard never mentioned Depp, but she refers to herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse."
And while Depp wasn’t named, his lawyers say the article defames him nevertheless because it’s a clear reference to the highly publicized allegations Heard made when she filed for divorce in 2016 and obtained a temporary restraining order against him.
Depp said he never physically abused Heard, while Heard said she was assaulted on more than a dozen occasions.
Here’s a look at what happened in the trial this week:
Monday, May 16: Jurors see pics of Amber Heard's swollen face after fight with Depp
FILE - U.S. actors Amber Heard (L) and Johnny Depp watch as the jury leaves the courtroom at the end of the day at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 16, 2022. (STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Heard was back on the witness stand Monday to continue her testimony in the trial following a week-long recess. She concluded her direct testimony that was centered on the final months of her marriage to Depp, and his lawyers began their cross-examination later in the afternoon.
Jurors saw new photos of Heard with red marks and swelling on her face after their final fight before their divorce. Heard said the marks came when Depp threw a phone at her face.
The confrontation in May 2016 prompted Heard to file for divorce two days later. A few days after that, she obtained a temporary restraining order after a courthouse hearing and was widely photographed leaving the courthouse with a clear red mark on her right cheek.
Depp says he never struck Heard and that she’s concocting claims she was abused. Earlier in the trial, jurors heard from police officers who responded to emergency calls during that final fight who said Heard’s face looked red from crying but that they saw no visible bruises.
Heard, in her testimony Monday, said she didn’t cooperate with officers who responded to the couple’s penthouse and said her face-to-face interactions with officers were very limited.
She also discussed her makeup routine, using a color correction wheel that she called her "bruise kit" to cover up marks on her face. She said she learned over the years to use green shades in the first day of a bruise to cover up redness, and switch more to orange shades as the bruise turned blue and purple.
"I’m not going to walk around L.A. with bruises on my face," she said.
On cross-examination, Depp lawyer Camille Vasquez questioned Heard about multiple photos of her that appeared not to show bruises even though they were taken within days of alleged abuse incidents. Heard said she used makeup to cover bruises and ice to reduce swelling.
Vasquez also questioned Heard about her $7 million divorce settlement from Depp. Heard pledged to donate the full amount to charity but has so far only donated a portion of it. She testified she’s been unable to fulfill her pledge yet because Depp sued her for $50 million. But on cross-examination, she acknowledged that she had received the full $7 million from Depp months before he filed the lawsuit.
During the testimony, Heard also strongly denied an accusation from Depp that she left human fecal matter in the couple’s bed after a fight. Heard said it was the couple’s teacup Yorkshire terrier that messed the bed and that it had a history of bowel problems ever since it had accidentally ingested Depp’s marijuana.
"Absolutely not," she said about the alleged poop prank. "I don’t think that’s funny. I don’t know what a grown woman does. I was not in a pranking mood."
The poop allegation is one of several that Depp’s online fans have particularly latched onto in their social media critiques of Heard.
Tuesday, May 17: Amber Heard cross-examined about fights with Johnny Depp
Heard was cross-examined for most of the day on Tuesday, and Depp’s lawyers particularly questioned the truthfulness of her accusation that Depp sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle.
The accusation stems from a March 2015 fight the couple had in Australia, shortly after they were married, while Depp was shooting the fifth film in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise.
It was during that fight that Heard said she was sexually assaulted. Depp, on the other hand, said he was the victim, and that he lost the tip of his middle finger when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him.
Vasquez questioned why Heard never sought medical attention, even though she said her feet were cut by broken glass and she was bleeding after the attack.
"You're the one who assaulted someone with a bottle in Australia, isn't that right, Ms. Heard?" Vasquez asked.
"I didn't assault Johnny in Australia. I didn't assault Johnny ever," Heard responded.
Vasquez then questioned why Heard wrote a series of love notes to Depp in the months after she said she was assaulted.
Heard has said she believed Depp had hit rock bottom after the Australia fight and was committed to sobriety. She has said most of the assaults occurred while Depp was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The jury also saw a recording of a deposition Heard gave in 2016 in connection with her divorce in which she appeared to inadvertently admit that she had tipped off the celebrity news outlet TMZ to aspects of her initial divorce proceedings.
After Heard's testimony concluded, jurors heard recorded testimony from a mutual friend of the couple, iO Tillett Wright, who said Depp confided to him that he hated sobriety.
"He wanted to get sober for Amber," Tillett Wright said. "He didn't enjoy being sober. It wasn't fun, and that it was distressing and exhausting and very hard to do. He really, really resented having to be sober."
Wright said Depp's personality turned mean and paranoid when he was using alcohol or drugs.
iO Tillet Wright, friend of U.S. actress Amber Heard, testifies via videoconference in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 17, 2022. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
There was testimony about Heard's $100 million counterclaim against Depp. She said she was defamed by Depp's lawyer, Adam Waldman, when he called Heard's accusations a hoax.
Heard has said the accusations hurt her career, but Vasquez pointed to a series of negative articles about Heard that preceded Waldman's comments.
The jury also heard an audio recording of a verbal fight between the two in which each belittled the other's acting career. Heard laughed mockingly at Depp's career-making role in the '80s television show "21 Jump Street."
"Hey, at least I didn't do, like, a teeny show where I'm a heartthrob. God that would be, like, embarrassing," Heard said.
Depp responded with dismissive commentary about Heard's biggest film role to date, shouting "Aquaman!" in a mocking way to denigrate the superhero film.
And Heard took offense when Vasquez suggested that Heard only got the role in "Aquaman" with Depp's help.
"Excuse me?" Heard said. "No, Ms. Vasquez, I got myself that role by auditioning."
Wednesday, May 18: Amber Heard's sister, friend back her assault claims
Heard’s sister testified on Wednesday that she found herself in the middle of fights — literally and figuratively — between her sister and Depp during their troubled relationship.
Whitney Heard Henriquez was the first witness to testify at the five-week civil trial to say she personally witnessed Depp hitting Heard. Depp has testified he never struck Heard.
Henriquez testified the fight occurred in March 2015 — a month after Depp and Heard's wedding — when Heard found evidence that Depp had already had an extramarital affair. Henriquez recounted that an inebriated Depp blamed Heard for forcing him into the extramarital encounter.
At one point, she said, she was caught between Depp and Heard as he charged up a staircase to confront Heard. Henriquez said she was struck in the back, and Heard became enraged and "landed one" on Depp, with Henriquez stuck between the two.
One of Depp's bodyguards intervened and broke up the fight but "by that time Johnny had already grabbed Amber by the hair with one hand and was whacking her repeatedly in the face with the other," Henriquez said.
It was the only time, Henriquez said, that she personally witnessed a physical assault. But she said she saw the aftermath of other fights, including bruises on Heard.
But she acknowledged on cross-examination that she sided with Depp at times in their disputes, and said she worked to keep the couple together even after she watched her sister be physically assaulted.
"If my sister said that she still wanted to be with Johnny and if I could help with that in any way I was going to support her. I was going to be there for her," she said.
Also on Wednesday, a friend of Heard testified she saw the bruises and cuts left in the aftermath of multiple incidents of abuse inflicted by Depp.
FILE - Whitney Henriquez, sister of actor Amber Heard, testifies on the stand during Johnny Depp's defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, on May 18, 2022 (KEVIN LAMARQUE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
In a recorded deposition played for jurors, Raquel Pennington said she never personally witnessed Depp strike Heard. But she said she saw the injuries, and she took photos of Heard's face in December 2015 after a fight in which Heard said Depp head-butted her and perhaps broke her nose.
The photo shows a swollen nose, a cut lip, and two moderately black eyes on Heard's face.
She also took a photo of strands of hair that she said were ripped from Heard's scalp.
Heard "often had to cover bruises and injuries on her face" with makeup, said Pennington, one of many witnesses whose testimony was previously recorded.
Pennington said she doesn't really consider herself a current friend of Heard, and that the two grew apart in the last year.
RELATED: Some spend $30K to get a front-row seat of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial
Thursday, May 19: Former close contacts chart Johnny Depp’s rise and fall
FILE - U.S. actor Johnny Depp arrives at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 19, 2022. (SHAWN THEW/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
On Thursday, three people who were once close to Depp charted the actor’s rise and fall from "the biggest movie star in the world" to a man who struggled with drugs, money, and the ability to show up at movie sets on time.
Tracey Jacobs, who served as the actor’s agent for about 30 years, said Depp was "showing up late to set consistently on virtually every movie" during their final years working together.
"I was very honest with him and said, ‘You’ve got to stop doing this – this is hurting you,’" Jacobs said during a previously recorded deposition that was played in court Thursday. "And it did."
The testimony served to push back against Depp’s libel lawsuit against Heard. Depp claims that a 2018 op-ed piece Heard wrote in The Washington Post unfairly portrayed him as a domestic abuser and cost him a lucrative Hollywood career that included the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise. Heard’s attorneys argue that Depp’s professional undoing was the result of his own bad behavior.
Joel Mandel, Depp’s former business manager, testified in a previously recorded deposition that the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films had "catapulted him into an entirely different level of success."
"It meant more employees," Mandel said. "It meant buying additional property. … It meant a bigger life and a more expensive one."
Things began to change around 2010, and it "became clear over time that there were issues with alcohol and drugs," Mandel said. "And that translated into more erratic behavior, more stressful behavior, more times when it was difficult to engage in the kinds of conversations I needed to do my job."
At one point, Depp was spending around $100,000 a month for a doctor and staff to help him get sober, Mandel said. At another, he was spending $300,000 a month on full-time staff, he said. And he said there also were times when Depp spent thousands of dollars a month on prescription drugs.
"The spending levels had grown very, very, very large and required that level of incredibly high income to be maintained," Mandel said. "And when it dropped off, the disconnect became untenable."
Mandel said he became extremely worried about Depp’s finances in 2015, but that Depp met those concerns with anger. He said the actor fired him in 2016.
Bruce Witkin, a musician who was friends with Depp for nearly 40 years, testified in a previously recorded deposition that Depp could become jealous in his romantic relationships.
That jealousy was demonstrated with Heard when she would be off filming a movie "or doing something that he couldn't be around to see what was going in," Witkin said. "I think he would work himself up."
Witkin said he once saw bruises on Heard's arm when he and Depp were working on a documentary about Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. And he saw Depp with a "fat lip" one time. But Witkin said he never saw Depp or Heard physically abuse each other.
Witkin said he tried to help Depp with his substance abuse and had set him up with a therapist.
"He'd say, ‘I’ll be all right. I'll be all right,'" Witkin said, recalling a conversation. "Well, you're not all right.
The trial is set to resume on Monday, May 23.
This story was reported from Cincinnati and Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.