The defamation trial opposing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is unfolding in Fairfax, Virginia.
Depp sued Heard, his ex-wife, for alleged defamation over an op-ed she wrote in 2018 in Washington Post, in which she describes herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”. Heard countersued her ex-husband, accusing him of allegedly orchestrating a “smear campaign” against her and describing his own lawsuit as a continuation of “abuse and harassment.”
Depp has asked for $50m in damages; Heard has asked for $100m and immunity against Depp’s claims. The trial is expected to last a total of six weeks.
Proceedings started on Monday (11 April) at the Fairfax County Courthouse with jury selection. Seven jurors were picked, along with four alternates who are here to step in should one or several of the original jurors need to drop out. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday saw the first witnesses take the stand, either in person or via video testimony. Witnesses have included Depp and Heard’s former marriage counselor, Depp’s sister, some of his friends, and Heard’s former assistant.
The evidence presented so far includes texts allegedly sent by Depp about Heard, which include offensive language.
On Wednesday (13 April), Depp’s longtime friend Isaac Baruch was asked by Heard’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft, “do you recall Mr Depp ever telling you that he hoped that Amber Heard’s rotting corpse is decomposing in the f*****g trunk of to Honda Civic?”
Baruch pointed to a monitor on which the message was displayed and said: “Yeah. Well, I say yeah – I’m seeing it here, so obviously, yeah, it was said. It was written.”
Bredehoft then asked him whether Depp had referred to Heard as a “c**t” over text.
“Well, it’s written there, so yeah, I could see that,” Baruch said, also reading from a monitor in front of him. Disputing Bredehoft’s specific characterization of Depp’s words, he added: “That’s not what he says – he says: ‘That c**t ruined such af*****g cool life we had for a while.’”
The next day, on Thursday (14 April), a video deposition of Amber Heard’s former assistant Kate James was played in the courtroom as testimony.
James was asked about an allegedly textually sent by Depp to James in August 2016, reading, according to the transcript introduced as evidence: “Thank you, sweetheart… I’m disgusted that I ever f*****’ touched that scum… Back on Tuesday!!! And then… Court!!! Will hit you when I get back, doll … Come over for a spot of purple and we’ll fix her de ella flabby a **, nice and good !!! Loveth… J.”
It was suggested during questioning that “a spot of purple” was a way of referring to red wine.
Asked whether James understood the text to be referring to Heard, James first said it wasn’t for her to speculate.
She was then asked about previous testimony she gave during the 2020 trial between Depp and The Sun in the UK, during which she was asked whether the text was about Heard. On that occasion, she replied, according to a transcript read as evidence in Virginia: “Yes. And it is.”
In her latest testimony, which was shared on Thursday as a video recording, James said on that occasion, she had been “just trying to be agreeable in court, having no clue what on earth is going on”.
Asked whether the answer she gave in the UK was truthful or whether she was just being agreeable, James said: “Just being agreeable.”
A video deposition of Heard and Depp’s former marriage counselor Dr Laurel Anderson aired on Thursday (14 April). She discussed her past sessions with the couple.
Asked whether Heard had ever reported any physical violence by Depp to her, Dr Anderson said yes. Asked whether she had seen photos, she said she had but doesn’t remember when. Asked whether “there was violence from Mr Depp toward Amber”, she said: “Yes, you’re right.”
“He had been well controlled for, I don’t know – 20, 30 years, and both were victims of abuse in their homes, but I thought he had been well controlled for decades,” she added. “And then with Ms Heard he was triggered and they engaged in what I saw as mutual abuse.”
sexual assault allegations
During opening arguments on Tuesday (12 April), Heard’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft alleged that Depp sexually assaulted Heard with a liquor bottle on one occasion.
Depp shook his head in court as Bredehoft recounted the alleged incident. His attorney Camille Vasquez disputed the allegation of sexual assault in court. A spokesperson called the claims “fictitious” in a statement to The Independent.
Depp’s friend ejected as witness
Gina Deuters, who is married to a member of Depp’s staff and is herself a close friend of the actor’s, gave testimony in person on Thursday (14 April).
She answered questions about Depp’s drugs and alcohol use, telling the court she had seen him use weed and cocaine occasionally, and that she had seen him drink alcohol. Deuters testified that she had never seen Depp be violent or angry after using any substances or drinking alcohol.
At one point during her testimony, Heard’s legal team asked for permission to approach Judge Penney Azcarate. The judge conferred with the attorneys, then sent the jury out for a brief recess.
Judge Azcarate then asked Deuters: “Have you been watching the trial this past week?”
Deuters replied: “I’ve seen clips of it online, yes.”
The judge then confirmed that Deuters had watched clips of witness testimony, after which she told Deuters she was excused.
Deuters then had to leave the court, and Judge Azcarate said she would instruct the jury to strike Deuters’s testimony.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.