Johnny Depp accuses Amber Heard of making ‘heinous and disturbing’ claims against him in $50m libel trial

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Johnny Depp testifies at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse  (REUTERS)
Johnny Depp testifies at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse (REUTERS)

Johnny Depp has told his defamation trial how abuse allegations turned him from “Cinderella to Quasimodo”.

The actor has been testifying in the defamation trial where he accuses his ex-wife Amber Heard of ruining his career with false accusations of violence during their relationship.

Depp, 58, alleges Heard, 35, defamed him when the actress penned an opinion piece in the Washington Post in December 2018 about being a survivor of domestic abuse.

He filed a $50 million lawsuit against Heard in 2018. The article never mentioned Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyer Benjamin Chew told jurors a week ago that it was clear Heard was referencing the Hollywood leading man.

Attorneys for Heard have argued she told the truth and that her opinion was protected as free speech under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

Taking the stand at Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in the US state of Virginia, Depp said his ex-wife “made some quite heinous and disturbing” allegations against him that were “not based in any species of truth.”

Johnny Depp is sworn in during his defamation trial (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Johnny Depp is sworn in during his defamation trial (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“Nothing of the kind ever happened,” the actor said in court.

He added: “Never did I myself reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way. Nor have I ever struck any woman in my life.”

Depp said at the time the accusations had "permeated" the entertainment industry and had become a "quote, unquote fact".

"It's been six years of trying times, very strange when one day you're Cinderella, so to speak, and then in 0.6 seconds you're Quasimodo," he said.

"I didn't deserve that, nor did my children, nor did the people who have believed in me all these years.

"I pride myself on honesty... on truth. Truth is the only thing I'm interested in.

"Lies will get you nowhere, and lies build upon lies... I'm obsessed with the truth so today is the first opportunity that I've been able to speak about this case in full."

The actor, who wore a dark suit and light-coloured paisley tie, said the case would be "exposing" both for him and Ms Heard.

"It never had to go in this direction," he said.

"I can't say I'm embarrassed because I know I'm doing the right thing."

Mr Depp said he had initially thought his relationship with Ms Heard had been "too good to be true" but had noticed things that "might be a bit of a dilemma at some point".

"In the beginning of my relationship with Ms Heard, from what I recall, it was as if she was too good to be true," he said.

"She was attentive, she was loving, she was smart, she was kind, she was funny, she was understanding and we had many things in common.

"For that year or year and a half it was amazing, there were a couple of things that stuck in my head that I noticed that I thought might be a little bit of a dilemma at some point."

He told the court that Ms Heard developed a "routine" when he came home from work, of giving him a glass of wine and taking his boots off, and that she had become "visibly shaken" and upset when he once disrupted it.

"Once you notice something like that then you start to notice other little tidbits and things that come out," he said.

"Then within a year or year and a half she had become another person almost."

The actor also spoke about the emotional and physical abuse that he was subjected to by his mother and father during his own childhood.

"I was very disappointed in him because I started to believe that his exit was snakey, cowardly.

"When he said goodbye to me when he left for work that morning... I said 'goodbye pop' and that was it until I learned the truth."

Mr Depp said his experiences had taught him "one of the best lessons I could ever learn in my life".

"Based on my experiences as a child and what I had seen and experienced, I knew exactly how to raise children... which was to do the opposite of what they did," he said.

"I never wanted the kids to see me as a novelty, just as dad."

Witnesses called by Depp’s lawyers have included friends of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star and a doctor and a nurse who said they treated him for substance abuse. The witnesses testified that they were aware of arguments between the couple but had not witnessed physical abuse by Depp toward Heard.

Amber Heard speaks to her attorney at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse on Tuesday (REUTERS)
Amber Heard speaks to her attorney at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse on Tuesday (REUTERS)

“Their arguments were a trigger for him emotionally,” Debbie Lloyd, who worked as a nurse for Depp when he was engaged to Heard, said in a videotaped March 8 deposition that was played for the jury on Monday. “They would cause him to be upset, add stress.”

When asked by a lawyer for Depp if she was aware that any of the arguments between Depp and Heard became physical, Ms Lloyd replied: “No.”

A state court judge in Fairfax County, Virginia, is overseeing the trial, which is in its second week and is expected to last for six weeks.

Less than two years ago, Depp lost a libel case against the Sun after the tabloid labelled him a “wife beater.” A High Court judge ruled he had repeatedly assaulted Heard and put her in fear for her life.

In the US case, Depp and Heard both submitted long lists of potential witnesses they could put on the stand.

Heard’s list includes her ex-boyfriend and Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk, with whom she texted about Depp. Also on the list of potential witnesses is actor James Franco.

The Washington Post is not a defendant in the case. Depp’s lawyers have said they filed the case in Fairfax County, outside the District of Columbia, because the newspaper is printed at a facility there.

The United States is a difficult forum for libel plaintiffs, especially public figures like Depp, who must prove by clear and convincing evidence that Heard knowingly made false claims.

Depp and Heard met while making 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married four years later. Heard accused Depp of domestic abuse after filing for divorce in 2016.

Heard, known for roles in “Aquaman” and “Justice League,” has brought her own libel claim against Depp, saying he smeared her by calling her a liar.

Heard’s counterclaim will be decided as part of the trial. Heard is seeking $100 million in damages from Depp, according to court papers.

Following the November 2020 ruling in the London libel trial, Depp was replaced with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen in the third film in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise, a spin-off from the “Harry Potter” books and films.

Depp's testimony is expected to stretch into Wednesday. Heard is scheduled to testify later in the trial.

The trial at Fairfax County District Courthouse continues.

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