Depp v Heard: What you may have missed from Heard's testimony

By Holly Honderich
BBC News, Washington DC

Published
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Watch: Amber Heard and Johnny Depp - the trial so far, in their own words

Amber Heard took the stand this week in her defamation trial against Johnny Depp, giving jurors a wildly different account of the pair's relationship to the one presented by her ex-husband's team.

Mr Depp, 58, has sued his former partner for $50m (£40m) over an article she wrote in 2018 in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse. Giving evidence during the first three weeks of the trial, Mr Depp told jurors he suffered under Ms Heard's volatile moods and her tendency to bully and abuse him.

But this week, Ms Heard, 36, told a different story, describing instead a controlling and violent Mr Depp, prone to jealous rages and drug binges. She has sued Mr Depp in turn, with a $100m counterclaim. Both have denied any abuse.

This story contains descriptions of violence readers may find upsetting.

The high-profile trial has gripped audiences around the world. Fans of Mr Depp have taken to social media to accuse Ms Heard of manufacturing her testimony and her tears. But Ryan Baker, a Los Angeles attorney who has represented clients in defamation cases, told the BBC that Ms Heard's evidence was compelling.

Now one month into trial, here's a look back at the key moments from this week and what to expect next.

First slap 'changed my life'

Among the only instances of overlap between Mr Depp and Ms Heard's testimony was their descriptions of their early days together.

Ms Heard, like her ex-husband, described an intense and immediate connection.

"I felt like butterflies. I couldn't see straight," she said. "I'd never felt love like that. I felt like he recognised me and I recognised him."

But that connection was marred, she said, by a sudden transformation. Mr Depp would disappear for days, she claimed, and return drunk, high and angry.

Image source, Getty Images
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Both actors recounted an instant connection while filming The Rum Diary

"He was the love of my life," Ms Heard said. "But he was also this other thing. And that other thing was awful."

She recalled the first instance of alleged violence after she asked about a tattoo on Mr Depp's arm that says 'Wino forever'.

"I laughed...and he slapped me across the face," she said. Ms Heard laughed again, she testified, assuming he was joking. He slapped her two more times, she said.

"It changed my life," she said. "I knew you don't come back from that."

Mr Depp testified earlier in the trial that the fight over a tattoo "didn't happen" and that he never hit Ms Heard.

Jealousy over 'hated' James Franco

According to Ms Heard, Mr Depp's rages were easily triggered by feelings of jealousy.

"He was accusing me of having affairs," Ms Heard said. "I'm trying to defuse the situation by trying to tell him I'm not sleeping with this person and I'm not sleeping with that person."

Mr Depp took a particular dislike to James Franco, Ms Heard's co-star in The Adderall Diaries.

"He hated, hated James Franco," she said.

That jealousy, she testified, culminated in a physical fight on board a harrowing 2014 flight from Boston to Los Angeles, in which he allegedly kicked her.

"He just kicked me in the back. I fell to the floor," she said. "No-one said anything. No-one did anything."

This particular fight has been recounted for jurors several times already. According to Mr Depp and members of his entourage, Ms Heard was the aggressor. The actor said he locked himself in the airplane bathroom to avoid his then-partner.

"I knew that she was ready for some kind of brawl," Mr Depp said in court. "I went into the bathroom, locked the door and laid down on the bathroom floor and went to sleep. And that's where I remained for the rest of the flight."

Rampant drug abuse

Mr Depp's substance abuse has been another frequent theme during the trial.

The actor has acknowledged an addiction to the opioid Roxycodone, which he said he was prescribed for a back injury. But after detoxing from that drug in 2014, he said he maintained a healthy relationship with drugs and alcohol.

Ms Heard described it differently. During her two days on the stand, she recounted numerous instances of her former partner abusing alcohol, cocaine, and painkillers.

"He would pass out, get sick, lose control of himself", she said.

Image source, Getty Images
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Mr Depp has denied ever abusing his ex-wife

According to Ms Heard, one of Mr Depp's benders occurred in front of his children. In court on Wednesday she told jurors Mr Depp had been upset during a vacation on his private yacht because he had to sell the boat to author JK Rowling.

Mr Depp was drinking, she said, and attempting to conceal the alcohol in a coffee cup. As he became increasingly - and more visibly - intoxicated, his then 14-year-old daughter became increasingly upset, Ms Heard said.

"He threw himself off the boat," she said. "It looked a little scary, like not something somebody would do if they were completely OK."

The girl started to cry and breathe rapidly, she said, "almost like a panic attack". As Ms Heard tried to comfort her, Mr Depp became enraged, she said.

Mr Depp accused her of "telling on him" and "calling him a drunk in front of his kids". He allegedly slammed Ms Heard against a wall inside the yacht and called her an "embarrassment".

Jurors have heard several disturbing accusations of sexual violence.

During a weekend away with friends in May 2013, Ms Heard said, Mr Depp accused her of encouraging what he perceived as suggestive advances from a woman.

The woman "leaned into me, put her head on my shoulder and put her hand on my arm", Ms Heard testified.

Mr Depp became enraged, she said. The two returned to their trailer park where the fighting intensified.

According to Ms Heard, Mr Depp ripped off her underwear and conducted a "cavity search" for cocaine.

Image source, Getty Images
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Ms Heard became visibly upset during her two days of testimony

Earlier in court, psychologist Dawn Hughes testified that Ms Heard had told her the same story about this alleged assault.

Ms Heard later struggled not to cry as she told jurors Mr Depp had sexually violated her with a bottle.

What next?

The court is now adjourned for a week. When jurors return to court on 16 May, they will hear more from Ms Heard. She'll take more questions from her own lawyers before facing cross-examination.

So far, the court of public opinion has not been kind to her. TikTok, Twitter and YouTube are strewn with fan accounts supporting Mr Depp and accusing Ms Heard of making false accusations in an effort to ruin his career.

"The cards were stacked against her to begin with," said journalist and author Cooper Lawrence, who has written extensively on celebrity culture. "He's the bigger star, he has a huge fan base, and they believe him."

In the course of Mr Depp's career and past relationships nothing like this has come out before, notes Ms Lawrence. "So what's the new factor? It's Amber Heard."

But inside the Virginia courtroom, Mr Depp has the bigger challenge, attorney Ryan Baker told the BBC.

The critical question, Mr Baker said, is whether Ms Heard can claim to be a victim of some form of domestic violence, as she wrote in 2018.

And according to Mr Baker, this abuse can be broad - physical, emotional or verbal - because Ms Heard did not recount any specific episodes of abuse in the op-ed.

"For the jury to side with Johnny Depp, they will have to completely disregard Amber Heard's testimony, consider her a liar," he said. "All the jury needs to do is believe some of what she's saying."

This case involves accusations of domestic and sexual violence. If you have been affected by this, or any other issues in this story you can visit the BBC Action Line.