Johnny Depp is suing Amber Heard for $50 million for defaming him, claiming that her 2018 op-ed in the Washington Post falsely proclaimed her as a victim of his domestic abuse. The trial is being held in Fairfax, Virginia because this is where the headquarters of the Washington Post is located.
While the op-ed does not explicitly name Johnny Depp, it does allude to domestic abuse Heard says she suffered during the period that they would have been together. Emails between Heard and the ACLU also show that Heard wanted to more explicitly reference Depp but they advised her not to. The trial kicked off on Monday with jury selection, where seven jurors and four alternates were selected. On the second day of the trial, we heard opening statements from Depp’s and Heard’s legal teams, followed by testimony from several key witnesses, including family members, a marriage counselor, a doctor, a former personal assistant, and friends.
Johnny Depp’s Sister Testifies He Had an Abusive Mother, Always Ran From Fights
Christi Dembrowski, who is Johnny Depp’s older sister and personal manager, was the first witness to take the stand. She testified about how she and Depp grew up in a chaotic household with a physically abusive mother. Dembrowski said that their mother would force them to pick a switch off a tree for her to beat them with. She said that their mother would make sure they would pick a beautiful, green switch because those wouldn’t break when you hit someone with it. After detailing how their mother would physically beat and verbally berate their father too, she insisted that she and Depp would try to get away and hide and that she saw him repeating this behavior in his relationship with Heard.
She said to the court, "I saw a repeat happening in life. When we were kids and arguments and fighting would start to happen, our first thing was to go and hide and, you know, get away from it, and since I recognized what I felt to be a pattern that was a repeat pattern from his childhood, I wanted to make sure that there was a place that he could do just that." She’s referring to the extra hotel rooms she says she booked when Depp was traveling for films in case he and Heard broke into another argument. Dembrowski maintains that Depp’s first instinct when a fight occurred was to get away from the situation, which would anger Heard.
Dembrowski also went into detail about Heard’s personality and behavior. She testified that she witnessed Heard call him an “old, fat man” and question why Dior would want to work with him when they’re about talent and class and he has neither of those things. When asked how Depp responded to the violence in his home, Dembrowski said, “He was a typical little boy, when hurt he would cry. For the most part, he just wanted to get away from it. When he was older even if she hit or threw things, he never went to that place, he would get away, he would leave the area, go to his room.”
“Even if she hit or threw things, he never went to that place, he would get away.”
While Heard’s team tried to weaponize the fact that Depp came from a physically abusive home, Dembrowski painted a different picture. A picture of a little boy who swore to never repeat the abuse he suffered as a child. Dembrowski insists that he learned to never fight back from his father. “Dad never reacted when mom hit him or screamed at him. Basically, he would let her scream and get it out and be done. The way you dealt with my mom, he always tried to keep the peace,” she said. She added that she and Depp made a pact that they would do things differently with their own families.
Dembrowski painted a picture of Amber Heard that was full of resentment and insecurity. She claims that when Depp would get a career opportunity, Heard would try to belittle him. She also says that Heard was very dramatic and had a strong personality. Dembrowski tried to warn Depp that he was rushing into marriage with Heard too soon, as many around him were concerned that she was rushing things before agreeing to sign a prenuptial agreement. She observed that Depp appeared to be sadder during this time of his life.
Childhood Best Friend Isaac Baruch Says Amber Heard’s Lie Has Destroyed So Many Lives
Perhaps the most charismatic of the witnesses we heard from this week was Johnny Depp’s childhood best friend Isaac Baruch. This is a friend Depp made before he became famous, so he was able to provide context to what Depp was like growing up and if that had changed at all. Baruch painted a story of a generous, kind man who offered a helping hand and financial support to his friends. While the defense tried to pressure Baruch into seeming like a biased friend who was beholden to Depp because of financial ties, they drastically underestimated how much credibility Baruch would lend to Depp's case.
Instead of attacking Heard, Baruch transparently talked about how he liked her, thought she was beautiful, and got along with her right away. He said, “I fell in love with her just like Johnny fell in love with her.” However, his testimony went on to state that Heard told Baruch that she and Depp got into a physical fight in which Depp lobbed a phone at her and hit her. While she claimed she had a bruised face, Baruch stated that he saw her multiple times on multiple days without any bruises on her makeup-free face, even when she attempted to show off the bruises to him. "I inspected her face. I don't see anything. I don't see a cut, a bruise, swelling, redness. It's just Amber's face,” Baruch testified.
He also told the court that he saw video surveillance footage taken from an elevator in the building where they lived, where he witnessed Amber’s sister Whitney pretend to punch her before they both erupted into laughter. This raises questions as to why a supposed survivor of domestic abuse would be laughing and making jokes about abuse, as well as why her sister would think it’s appropriate to pretend to punch her if she truly were the victim.
“I don't see a cut, a bruise, swelling, redness. It's just Amber's face.”
Heard’s defense team tried to corner Baruch by getting him to admit that he wouldn’t be able to know with 100% certainty that Heard was not wearing makeup. Heard’s attorney also repeatedly asked Baruch if he knew if Heard applied any “Amica cream,” which is a mispronunciation of Arnica cream, implying that it was used to cover up bruises, to which he replied no and maintained that Heard and her friends regularly went makeup-free unless she was going out for a special occasion.
Baruch stated in court that while he witnessed two verbal altercations between Depp and Heard, he never witnessed any violence. One of the arguments he witnessed was a phone call where Depp claimed he could hear Amber with another man over the phone and that Heard responded to Depp by saying “Come on, baby, why are you doing this?” in a taunting tone. When Baruch saw the public photographs of Heard’s bruised face and heard the news that the couple was divorcing, he was shocked but did not believe that Depp had ever hit Heard. This is when he informed Heard that he thought it was for the best that they didn't speak anymore.
The show-stealer of the day was when Baruch broke into tears when being questioned about his anger with Heard by her attorney. "You're pretty angry with Ms. Heard, right?" Bredehoft asked Baruch.
Baruch replied, "Oh, about all the phony pictures that were taken and put in the tabloids and about the fake narrative and the way she's got a fraudulent DV claim to extort and blackmail a man? Yeah, that kind of got me frustrated, confused, angry, upset, yes, which is why I said the best thing for us to do is not to talk to each other. Yes.”
When pressed about if he was still angry with her, Baruch went on, “Oh, you know something? It's 6 years. It's 6 years. Am I angry anymore? What I am is tired and I want this all to end. Her to go heal. Him to go heal. You know, so many people have been affected by this malicious lie that she started and she created, and it has gone out the door and around the world, so you know I can't even paint anymore... I'm not angry at anybody. I want the best for her, for her to take her responsibility. Heal and move on. And for Johnny, you know, his family has been completely wrecked by all of this stuff, and it's not fair, it's not right what she did and what happened for so many people to get affected from this. It's insane, how this happened."
The latter part of Baruch’s statement was delivered through tears – a powerful moment that captured the attention of social media and which showed Heard’s team’s lack of control during their cross-examination.
Former Personal Assistant Kate James Testifies That Amber Heard Was Abusive to Her
Kate James is a celebrity personal assistant, who worked for Amber Heard from 2012 to 2015. She was a character witness who testified that Heard grossly underpaid her and was verbally abusive to her. James did not mince words, delivering a deadpan video deposition, sounding very annoyed with Heard’s lawyers. She claimed that when she asked for a salary raise, Heard aggressively got in her face and spit on her, and said how dare she ask for a raise. James claims a handyman was witness to this incident. She also testified that Heard regularly shouted at her, texted her abusive messages day and night, and would fly into fits of blind rage. When asked about the relationship dynamic between Depp and Heard, James claimed that Heard was very insecure.
When she asked for a salary raise, Heard aggressively got in her face and spit on her.
Elaborating on Heard’s abusive nature, James said that Heard’s mother, who has since died, was terrified of her and even personally told her so. While Heard’s legal team has been focusing on Depp’s use of drugs and alcohol, James testified that Heard took prescription drugs like Accutane and Provigil, sporadically used mushrooms, ecstasy, and cocaine, and was an avid wine drinker. When she would become intoxicated, James alleged, Heard would become increasingly more belligerent and abusive. When it came to Depp, however, James insisted he was nothing but a true Southern gentleman who was kind, shy, and showed generosity toward her son.
Marriage Counselor Testifies Amber Heard Would Initiate Physical Fights
We then heard from Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s marriage counselor Laurel Anderson. Heard is the one who reached out to this counselor in the first place, and from her testimony, it appears that most of her sessions involved more direct contact with Heard. She testified that because Heard had a “jackhammer style of talking,” Depp wasn’t able to get a word in and found it difficult to express himself with her constantly interrupting him.
Their chaotic relationship and physical fights were brought to her attention, but she never witnessed any physical violence in person. She testified that Heard admitted to initiating physical violence to keep Depp there because she would rather be in a fight than have him leave. She also said that Heard, because she had been beaten by her father as a child, saw it as a point of pride to “fight back” and sometimes hit Depp first. Heard would allege that Depp hit her, but only when Depp was not present, and this led Anderson to believe that both parties engaged in physical violence. She concluded that there was “mutual abuse” because both parties had been physically abused as children and reported being hit by each other.
She believed there was “mutual abuse” because both had been physically abused as children.
Heard reportedly showed up to counseling sessions with bruises under her eyes and also showed her photos of the bruises. However, the actual cause of these bruises was supposedly not discussed. As attorneys worked their way through Anderson’s jumbled clinical notes, one of the entries read, “Will she have advantage if she leaves him but files for abuse first?” Anderson clarified this was a quote from Heard, who was trying to strategize for herself. Also in her notes were entries about Heard hitting Depp with a closed fist, that a lot of things trigger her, and that if she felt disrespected, Heard would hit him first.
Drama in the Courtroom
Gina Deuters, who is a longtime friend of Johnny Depp’s, began to give character testimony on the third day of trial when Heard’s team broke into a frenzy. After a woman sitting in the front row – a woman known as Eve Barlow, Amber Heard’s friend or alleged girlfriend – got the attention of Heard’s lawyers, they checked their phones.
After Deuters finished her testimony, Heard’s lawyers had a conference with the judge. The judge then asked Deuters if she had seen any coverage of the trial, to which she admitted that she had seen some clips online. Because it’s a legal rule that lay witnesses can’t watch any coverage of the trial, she had to be dismissed and her testimony stricken from the record. The jury must disregard it and can’t rely on it when making their deliberation. So, how did this happen? How did Heard’s team find out Deuters had seen clips of the trial?
Turns out it’s because Barlow, who had been sitting in the front row the entire week, was sending notes and texts to Heard’s team during the trial. This is explicitly prohibited behavior, as only the legal counsel is supposed to sit in the front row and only the legal team can have access to technology. Barlow seems to have sent Heard’s team information about Deuters seeing witness testimony. Barlow was removed from the court but later let back in.
However, after Depp’s team filed a motion for her to be banned from re-entry, the request was granted. Barlow is now prohibited from entering the courtroom. What’s more, court transcripts show that Depp’s team objected to the evidence provided supposedly showing that Deuters had seen footage of the trial. It reveals that Heard’s lawyers were misled by Barlow, who showed them a cropped Instagram post that excluded the date of the post. While it looked like Deuters was making an Instagram post about the trial, this post was actually from 2021 and was about the UK trial. The fact that a random person can obstruct justice like this and actively disrupt a serious civil case is concerning, to say the least. At the end of the day, however, Deuters admitted to seeing clips of the trial somewhere online and because she was honest, the court can’t admit her testimony.
This first week of trial was just the beginning, and we still have five more weeks to go. Going forward, we may hear testimony from Elon Musk and James Franco as well as actor Paul Bettany. Things are only going to ramp up more once we dig into the nitty-gritty of the physical altercations and once Depp and Heard take the stand. Going forward, Heard will be pressed about whether or not she ever truly donated her divorce settlement money. There are also audio recordings of Heard admitting to hitting Depp and yelling at him for always running away. If this evidence can be heard by the jury, this could swing things in favor of Depp.
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