After three days on the stand, we have a lot to unpack from Johnny Depp’s testimony against Amber Heard in the $50 million defamation suit he filed against her.
Johnny Depp testified about a vast range of topics, from his childhood with his abusive mother to injuries he allegedly sustained from Amber Heard. This is the first time Depp has been able to publicly address the claims against him as well as the abuse he claims Heard inflicted on him in a televised trial.
The court saw gruesome photographs and listened to recordings of Heard and Depp discussing physical altercations that are sure to leave an impact on the jurors. Depp testified that the woman he married seemed like the perfect woman for him and that she remained so for about a year and a half before revealing her true self, which was someone completely different.
Johnny Depp’s Abusive Childhood and Why He Stayed with Amber Heard
In his testimony, Depp verified details that were previously given by his sister, Christi Dembrowski, about his abusive childhood. Talking about his mother, Betty Sue, he detailed how she was physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive, but that the psychological abuse took a far greater toll than the violence. Depp brought up how his mother would fling an ashtray at him or beat him with a shoe or a telephone, insisting that he learned from an early age to run away from violence. Depp wasn’t the only victim of his mother’s verbal and physical lashings.
His father, whom he described as a quiet, shy, and kind man, took most of the brunt of Betty Sue’s abuse, but always remained stoic. Depp testified there wasn’t a moment when his father would ever react to the horrible things his wife would say to him. He would just stand there and take it, refusing to even say one bad thing about her. “To me, as a 5-year-old boy, I kept wondering, why does he take it? How does he take this? Why doesn't he leave her? But he didn't, you know,” Depp said.
Eventually, though, Depp’s father had had enough, collected his things, and didn’t return from work one day. Upon realizing her husband had left her, Depp’s mother attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. He watched her be carried out on a gurney for emergency intervention, and while she survived, Depp witnessed her fall into a deep depression and this made a lasting impression on him. When asked why Depp stayed with Amber Heard despite his accounts of years of torment and domestic violence against him, he said, “I stayed, I suppose, because my father stayed, because I had been in that relationship with Vanessa and that was lost and I didn't want to fail.”
“I stayed, I suppose, because my father stayed…And I didn’t want to fail.”
Depp went on to say that the instance of him waking up to his mother’s suicide attempt made a lasting impact on him, especially knowing that it was a direct result of his father leaving her. Depp testified he feared that Heard would commit suicide if he left her because she had made references to suicide before and would become erratic when he tried to break things off, saying things like “I can’t live without you” and following him to one of his homes screaming in the middle of the night.
Gaslighting and Psychological Abuse
Johnny Depp described his tumultuous relationship with Amber Heard from beginning to end, but things weren’t always so volatile. At the beginning of the relationship, Depp said it was like she was too good to be true. “She was attentive, loving, smart, kind, funny, she was understanding. We had many things in common – certain blues music. Music, literature…for that year or year and a half, it was amazing,” Depp said. He went on to say she seemed like the perfect woman because she had very specific interests that aligned with his and she was beautiful and intelligent.
However, Depp started to notice strange behavior that seemed minor at first. Heard got into a routine of taking off his boots each day when he came home from work and bringing him a glass of wine. One day, when Heard was busy on the phone, he had removed his boots himself, and Depp claims that she was visibly shaken that he had broken her rules of routine. Then, within a year or a year and a half, Depp testified that she had “become another person almost” in terms of her attitude and the way she spoke to him.
Depp alleged that he was suddenly wrong about everything because Heard couldn’t ever be in the wrong. This escalated into frequent arguments in which Heard would name-call and demean him. Depp describes this arguing as something he would defend himself from in the beginning but which became unbearable and took a toll on his mind. “It's not a happy day, week, month when you're constantly being told how wrong you are, what an idiot you are. Then it increased and increased and became an endless circle, so as it escalated, I went straight to what I had learned as a youth which was to remove myself from the situation so that it couldn't continue,” Depp said on the stand. Heard also started being more controlling, down to when he was allowed to go to sleep.
Depp, in telling how Heard would use information he had confided in her or things that were important to him against him, stated, "There were several occasions where Ms. Heard would tell me what a bad father I was and that I had no idea how to parent." Depp would tell Heard how important it was to him to see his kids and spend time with him, and this would allegedly send her into a tailspin, calling him a horrible father and preventing him from seeing his children because she needed him for her own needs.
After a while of trying to confront Heard with the demeaning things she would say to him during arguments, which she would deny having said, Depp came up with the idea to record their arguments, with Heard’s consent. The purpose of this was to show her how she becomes overtaken by her rage and would say cruel things to him that later she would usually deny.
Struggles with Substance Abuse
Johnny Depp is no stranger to drugs and alcohol. While the defense has tried to paint Depp as this hard-core drug addict, Depp has set the record straight about the real reason he was self-medicating. It goes back to his childhood with his abusive mother and looking for an escape from the pain. Depp told the court that the first time he used drugs he was only 11 years old – he started secretly taking some of his mother’s “nerve pills,” which he observed would calm her down, as a form of escape from his chaotic home.
However, he insists he has never taken any substance for a party and that Heard’s claims about his substance abuse are grossly embellished. He claims he has only taken them reluctantly to numb himself.
Depp was then prescribed the opiate medication Roxicodone after sustaining an injury while filming Pirates of the Caribbean, to which he became physically addicted. He continued taking the drug for several years to avoid the physical withdrawal symptoms that would occur if he ceased taking the medication. This is why he sought out the help of an addiction doctor to eventually help him detox from the drug. Depp agreed to go through the detox process, which was grueling and brutal.
As a boy, he took some of his mother’s “nerve pills” to escape from his chaotic home.
The doctor who was supposed to oversee his detox and administer drugs that were meant to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms at some point handed the responsibility of administering these drugs over to Amber Heard. This became a problem when Depp felt intense withdrawal symptoms coming on and asked for his medication, which Heard refused to give to him. "I believe that was about the lowest point in my life. That was the lowest I'd ever felt as a human being because I had to say ‘please, please may I have the meds, because it's really kicking in?’ and she was adamant ‘no, it's not time,’” Depp testified under oath.
Depp then began to cry and beg, but Heard would not let up. This required Depp to resort to scalding hot showers to distract his brain from the withdrawal. This led to Depp leaving his island where he was detoxing and asking Heard to stay away from him for five or six days to complete his detox. This was met with accusations of abandonment, but she eventually obliged. Heard also regularly accused him of having a drinking problem but refused to help him with his sobriety by quitting herself. He also testified that she regularly drank two bottles of wine a night and took drugs like MDMA and magic mushrooms. When Depp would have a glass of wine, Heard would allegedly call him weak, an alcoholic, and tell him that his kids aren’t proud of him.
Johnny Depp Testified About Numerous Accounts of Being Physically Assaulted
Johnny Depp testified that if he tried to prove his version of a story or if he tried to stay and argue with her, he was sure it would escalate into violence, and it often did. Depp said, "Ms. Heard, in her frustration, rage, and anger, she would strike out. It could begin with a slap, it could begin with a shove, it could begin with throwing a TV remote at my head, it could begin with throwing a glass of wine in my face… it was constant.”
Depp claims that Heard has a need for conflict and a need for violence that erupts out of nowhere. Depp maintains that he has never once hit her or any woman in his life. Rather, he learned from a young age to run away from abuse. This didn’t change with Amber Heard.
Under oath, Depp testified about many different incidences of Heard initiating physical fights. The most explosive altercation between Depp and Heard took place in Australia, and it cost him the tip of his finger. During an argument over a post-nuptial agreement, Depp alleges that he was sitting down at the bar in his house when Heard grabbed a vodka bottle and threw it at him. The first bottle blew past his head, so she picked up a second large vodka bottle and hurled it at him, which hit his finger and shattered everywhere.
This completely severed his fingertip. All of the bones in the finger had also been crushed, and it was bleeding profusely, causing him to go to the emergency room. Heard also allegedly took Depp’s cigarette from the ashtray and put it out on his face, which gave him a scar on his face. He had to get reconstructive surgery on his finger, and when asked how it happened, he lied to cover for Heard, saying he smashed it in some large accordion doors. Depp said the doctor looked at him as if he were lying and replied, “Sir, that is a wound of velocity.” After undergoing reconstructive surgery, he contracted MRSA.
Depp also testified about other times Heard inflicted violence on him, like when she roundhouse punched him in the face and her sister Whitney stepped in front of him to protect him, or another incident where Heard was allegedly punching Depp and he had to restrain her by putting her in a bear hug position. While restraining her, their heads made contact and this is when Heard accused him of head-butting her and trying to break her nose. Disturbingly, she took it even further, showing up with a tissue covered in a red substance that looked like blood, which she showed him to claim that he had broken her nose, only for Depp to discover that it was red nail polish.
Amber Heard hurled a large vodka bottle at him, which hit his finger and severed the tip.
Many hours of audio files have been submitted to the court. Jurors can choose to listen to the audio files that aren’t played live in court or not. A selection of recordings were played inside the courtroom, which revealed Heard was the instigator of physical fights on several occasions. Not only does she admit to hitting Depp, but she also mocks and berates him for running away.
In one audio clip, you could hear Heard say, "You didn't get punched; you got hit. I'm sorry I hit you like this, but I did not punch you. I did not f-----g deck you. I f-----g was hitting you. I don't know what the motion of my actual hand was. But you're fine. I did not hurt you. I did not punch you. I was hitting you." Depp can be heard saying, “How are your toes?” to which Heard responds, "I'm not sitting here bitching about it, am I? You are. That's the difference between me and you. You're a f-----g baby. You are such a baby. Grow the f--- up, Johnny." You can also hear Heard say the words “I did start a physical fight.” There are audio files just like this that go on for hours, but unfortunately, there isn’t time to play even a quarter of them in court.
The Incident That Pushed Johnny Depp over the Edge
After detailing years of physical and psychological abuse that Depp endured, he told the court what the final straw was, and it’s bizarre to say the least. There was yet another incident, Depp said, where Heard was striking Depp anywhere she could get a shot in. Depp testified that they then didn’t see each other for an entire month, and Depp wanted to come to get his stuff from the penthouse while Heard wasn’t there.
When his security told him it was probably not a good time to get his stuff, he was confused, until he learned that there was human fecal matter that someone left on the bed. Depp testifies he believes it to be human because they only had teacup Yorkies who could not produce bowel movements that large. While this might sound bizarrely funny, keep in mind that his mother was dying in the hospital at this time and did pass away on May 20, the day before he spoke with Heard for the last time.
After this disrespect and the passing of his mother, he decided he couldn’t take it anymore and told Heard he wanted a divorce but that it would be done amicably and that he would take care of her. Depp and Heard met up for the last time the day after Depp’s mother died. When the discussion turned toward Depp’s suspicion that Heard was the one who “left a grumpy” on the bed, she began to tauntingly laugh at him while on the phone with her friend iO Tillett Wright. When he grabbed Heard’s phone, he told iO, “She’s all yours now,” and then placed the phone down on the couch, where she was sitting.
When he went to leave, Heard’s friend Raquel Pennington came in and yelled “Leave her alone!” while Depp was standing 20 feet away from Heard, in the kitchen. Amber Heard was still sitting on the couch. That's when Depp says Heard started screaming, “Stop hitting me, Johnny!” The security, who Depp told to wait outside the door in case something happened, came in right away. Surprised by the security, Heard yelled “That's the last time you hit me! That's the last time you’ll ever do that to me!” Depp again reminded the court that he was nowhere near her. Jerry (his security guard) then advised him that they should just leave.
While Johnny Depp is not done testifying, we’ve gotten through so much evidence in just a matter of days. There is still so much evidence to come, including from Elon Musk and James Franco. If you’re interested in listening to the audio recordings of Depp and Heard discussing physical fights so you can decide what you believe for yourself, you can listen to them here.
So far, Depp has had a strong week, and while Depp has certainly taken his time to answer questions, they’ve painted a very convincing picture of a toxic relationship. The ability to get those audio recordings played for the jurors should make a huge impact when it comes to deliberation on a verdict. However, there are still four weeks to go and we haven’t heard from Amber Heard yet.
Catch up on the first week of testimony here.
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