Here’s everything you need to know about the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial

By Shanicka Anderson and Gabrielle Sanchez

Johnny Depp testifying in court on April 19.
Johnny Depp testifying in court on April 19.
Photo: JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP (Getty Images)

 

The trial between actors and former married couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is officially underway. The defamation trial enters its sixth day, and is expected to last about five or six weeks in total, with possible witness testimony from James Franco, Elon Musk, and more. The trial’s also spurred Depp super fans from around the world to sit outside the Virginia court house at all hours of the day.

Here’s everything you need to know about the case thus far.

Why is Depp suing Heard?

Depp filed the defamation lawsuit in 2019, following the publishing of a 2018 Washington Post op-ed written by Heard in which she refers to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Although the actor is not explicitly named in the article, Depp and his lawyers attest Heard’s writing contains a “clear implication that Mrs Depp is a domestic abuser.” He says these claims substantially derailed his acting career.

“I spoke up against sexual violence—and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change,” Heard wrote in the op-ed following the former couple’s divorce in 2017.

“Like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age. But I kept quiet—I did not expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn’t see myself as a victim,” Heard continued.

Heard first accused Depp of domestic abuse in 2016, and the two officially divorced in 2017.

What has been said in testimony so far?

On Tuesday, April 19, during a 3-hour long testimony, Depp discussed Heard’s abuse allegations, as well as his own tumultuous childhood and history of drug use.

Depp denied hitting Heard or any other woman, and he said Heard’s allegations in the Washington Post op-ed led to the sudden downturn of his once-famed career. “It’s very strange when one day you’re a Cinderella, so to speak, then in zero point six seconds you’re Quasimodo. I didn’t deserve that nor did my children nor did the people who believed in me all these years,” he claimed, per the New York Times.

Depp admitted he used his first illicit drug when he was 11 years old, in order to deal with the alleged abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother—however he said Heard’s telling of his drug use is “grossly embellished.”

The actor also said that though he developed a dependence on the opioid Roxicodone following an injury on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, he detoxed and experienced withdrawal from the drug during his relationship with Heard.

“I am not some maniac who needs to be high or loaded all the time.” he added.

During the second day of his testimony, Depp opened about the volatile arguments between himself and Heard. “I was sort of not allowed to be right, not allowed to have a voice,” Depp said, per Vulture. “So at a certain point, what enters your mind is, you start to slowly realize that you are in a relationship with your mother, and I know that that sounds perverse, obtuse but the fact is some people [search] for weaknesses in people…” The fights and arguments would quickly become violent, he explained. “If I stayed to argue, eventually I was sure it was going to escalate into violence. Oftentimes, it did.”

What is Depp seeking?

For this libel trial, Depp is pursuing compensatory damages of “not less than $50 million.” During his testimony, Depp also claimed per Vulture, that the suit is a way to “clear his name” for himself and his children, Lily-Rose, 22, and Jack, 20.

Wait, hasn’t there already been a court case?

Yes. In 2020, Depp sued News Group Newspapers (which oversees The Sun) for publishing the headline “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” The actor alleged the headline was libelous. However, the judge did not rule in Depp’s favor as the claims against him were proven “substantially true.”

There will be defamation countersuit

Heard has filed a countersuit against Depp for defamation concerning his claims that she orchestrated a hoax against him and was in fact, actually the abusive one in the relationship. She says her former husband concocted a “smear campaign” against her and seeks $100 million in compensatory damages.

 

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