5 Things to Know About The Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard Defamation Trial

Depp has denied all claims of both physical and sexual abuse by Heard, and has taken her to court for defamation. Heard is counter suing for $100 million.

April 18, 2022
On the left, Johnny Depp is pictured wearing a tuxedo at the Monte-Carlo Gala For Planetary Health in September 2020. On the right, Amber Heard is pictured wearing a red dress at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019.

Johnny Depp has denied all claims of both physical and sexual abuse by his ex-wife Amber Heard, and has taken her to court for defamation.

Photo by: Getty Images

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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard may be divorced but details of their rocky marriage are being unearthed in a trial where Depp is looking to win a $50 million defamation suit against his ex-wife. Heard is counter suing for $100 million.

The two met in 2011 on the set of the film The Rum Diary, according to the Evening Standard, and started living together in 2012.

They got married in 2015 but the next year Heard filed for divorce from Depp and accused him of physical abuse. A settlement was reached and Depp was denied an appeal.

According to Newsweek, Depp would later lose a libel case, in 2020, against The Sun, which called the Edward Scissorhands actor a “wife-beater,” in reference to Heard’s allegations, which forced the actor to resign from the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

A judge found the publication's claims of abuse to be “substantially true,” Newsweek reported.

Depp has vehemently denied all claims of abuse by Heard, and has taken her to court.

Here are five things to know about this case.

In a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post, Heard said she was abused but didn’t name Depp.

During the height of the #MeToo movement, the actress penned an op-ed in The Washington Post in support of the Violence Against Women Act.

She revealed that she was a survivor of sexual assault:

"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. Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture's wrath for women who speak out."

While Heard did not name Johnny Depp explicitly, his lawyers argue Heard defamed him because her statement refers to allegations she’s made elsewhere about Depp.

According to Reuters, Depp’s lawyers claimed Heard released the op-ed on the eve of the release of Aquaman—in which she starred—to get a buzz going.

"By choosing to lie about her husband for her own personal benefit, Amber Heard forever changed Mr. Depp's life and his reputation," Benjamin Chew, Depp’s lawyer, said. "You will hear him tell you the dreadful impact it has had on his life."

The location of the trial was chosen in part because of where The Washington Post servers are.

It may seem odd for two big Hollywood stars, who both live in California, to be in court in Fairfax, Virginia, but that was apparently a strategic move by the Depp camp.

While Heard reportedly wanted the case tried in California, Depp’s lawyers asked for it to be in Virginia, where the Washington Post’s server for its digital site is located, because the laws in Virginia are more favorable to their case, according to The Washington Post.

NPR also suggested the location may be able to help shield against “the hyperactive paparazzi cultures of Los Angeles and New York.”

The couple’s former marriage counselor said Heard often initiated fights but the abuse was mutual.

Dr. Laurel Anderson, a counselor who saw Depp and Heard 21 times, according to The Daily Mail, said Heard started physical fights more than once.

“I know she led [the fights] on more than one occasion and started it to keep him with her because abandonment and having him leave was her worst nightmare,” Dr. Anderson said, reported by The Daily Mail.

Dr. Anderson said Heard had a history of being hit by her father and if triggered, she would hit Depp first.

“She was sensitive to feeling disrespected. If she felt disrespected - she had come out of her background history, feeling her pride needed to dominate and she needed to stand up for herself,” Dr. Anderson testified.

During the ongoing trial, Depp recalled a fight the two had on Heard’s birthday, describing it as “chaotic, violent but she gave as good as she got.”

Dr. Anderson read notes she took when the couple discussed this incident.

“He [Depp] hits her [Heard], no closed fist. She hits back and starts it for pride because her father hit her.”

Heard accuses Depp of not only physical abuse but sexual abuse too.

Some of the more gruesome details revealed in the opening statements of the trial were Heard’s allegations of Depp sexually abusing her.

Bringing up a 2015 incident, when the couple went to Australia for vacation, Elaine Bredehoft, Amber Heard's lawyer, said Depp sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle, according to the Evening Standard.

Depp allegedly threw Heard across the floor, kicked her, punched her, and “penetrated her with a liquor bottle”.

Depp sent text messages, to a friend, about Heard’s "rotting corpse.”

In 2016, Depp sent an exchange of fiery text messages, about his ex-wife, to his friend and neighbor, Isaac Baruch.

According to People Magazine, Depp wrote in a text that he had hoped Heard’s "rotting corpse is decomposing in the f-----g trunk of a Honda Civic."

Baruch, under oath, admitted the text was true. "Yeah, it was written,” People reported.

Depp also texted about Heard: "That c--- ruined such a f-----g cool life we had for a while."

When asked if Depp had ever abused Heard, Baruch said, “ "I never saw or witnessed whatever type of claim that is being said. Ever."

According to Reuters, the trial is expected to last for six weeks.

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