WARNING includes topics of domestic violence
Beginning with jury selection on the 11th of April, the infamous Depp v Heard case made headlines in every newspaper and infiltrated every social media platform. Johnny Depp, world-renowned “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor, made a claim against Amber Heard, actress, and his ex-wife, for $50 million in damages whilst denying Heard’s previous claims of physical abuse, and suing Heard for physical abuse instead. Consequently, Heard countersued for $100 million, claiming her acts of violence as self-defense or in defense of her younger sister. The case played out in Fairfax Country, Virginia.
Depp and Heard were engaged within two years of dating and married the year after in 2015. However, it was short-lived and volatile as Heard filed for a divorce and a restraining order against Depp in 2016. She claimed that Depp threw a phone at her, leaving a bruise on her face and that Depp was verbally and physically abusive throughout their relationship. The divorce was finalised in 2017.
After the brief marriage, Heard wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in 2018 which elaborated on her survival of domestic violence: “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out”.
This formed a public view that Depp was abusive despite his name not being included in the article. Subsequently, in 2019, Depp sued Heard for defamation regarding the article and claimed Heard as a perpetrator rather than a victim of domestic violence.
Yet, in 2020, following leakage of audio of Heard allegedly saying she hit Depp by The Daily Mail, a libel trial was held in the UK by Depp, who sued The Sun for describing Depp as a “wife-beater”. The judge at the time ruled in favour of The Sun. Subsequently, Depp was asked to exit the “Fantastic Beasts” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises.
All On Air: The Courtroom
The highly publicised trial surfaced interesting claims. One involved Heard leaving her own faeces on the couple’s bed, or her use of a makeup palette released in 2017 to hide bruises in 2016. Revelations of Depp’s past with domestic abuse, his drug and alcohol abuse, vulgar texts between friends - “Let’s burn Amber” - amongst Depp’s lost fingertip and bloody scrawl, were all on show to the public, leaving a tang permeating the courtroom milieu.
Depp spent four days on the witness stand as his last opportunity to reclaim his reputation, denying Heard’s domestic abuse allegations. “Never did I, myself, reach the point of striking Ms Heard in any way. Nor have I struck any woman in my life.”
A crucial piece of evidence involved a tape where Heard could be heard admitting to hitting Depp. “I’m sorry that I didn’t...hit you across the face in a proper slap but I was hitting you, it was not punching you”.
Such evidence accorded with further testimonies from Depp’s friends, family and employees, who stated that Heard was the aggressor in the relationship. An audio clip was played in court of a conversation between Depp and Heard where Heard appeared to taunt him: “Tell them, ‘I Johnny Depp ... am a victim of domestic violence,’...and see how many people believe or side with you.” Accordingly, many started conversations on gendered domestic abuse.
Furthermore, Depp denied he cut off his own finger during a violent fight in the early stages of their marriage in 2015. Instead, he claimed that Heard was the person who threw objects, where a vodka bottle hit him and severed the top of his right middle finger, which he later used to scrawl messages of Heard’s “lies” on the walls.
Accordingly, evidence was shown of his hospital visit. “I can’t take responsibility for what I now call Little Richard, my chopped finger.” However, Heard had a different story to tell. Allegedly, Depp penetrated her with a bottle then the next morning, she woke up to Marilyn Manson playing and noticed messages in blood scrawled on the wall. Furthermore, Heard stated that she only discovered about Depp’s injured finger after the event. This differs significantly from Depp’s testimony.
Heard also testified that Depp ripped off her underwear and conducted a “cavity search” for cocaine during a fight in 2013. Then, in 2014, on a flight from Boston to LA, Heard alleged that Depp kicked her during a physical altercation. However, Depp and his entourage told a different story and testified that Heard was the aggressor, while Depp locked himself in the aeroplane bathroom to avoid her.
Importantly, Heard recalled the first time Depp allegedly hit her. According to Heard, this occurred after she asked about a tattoo Depp had which spelled out “wino”, a remnant of Depp and actress Winona Ryder’s relationship. He apparently proceeded to slap Heard after she laughed about it, then slapped her two more times, which Depp denied.
“It changed my life. I knew you don’t come back from that.”
Furthermore, Heard stated that Depp was jealous, accused her of having affairs, and became “out of control” after he broke his sobriety. She testified that on one occasion, Depp head butted and repeatedly punched her in the face.
“He was just pummelling me. I thought: This is how I die. He’s going to kill me now. He’s going to kill me, and he won’t even have realised it.”
Yet, Heard also admitted to hitting Depp in their Los Angeles penthouse following an argument where Heard accused Depp of cheating. Allegedly, during the confrontation, when she went into the neighbouring penthouse which Depp owned to see her sister, Depp followed her, grabbed at her, and when Heard returned to their penthouse, he threw a can at them and “bolted” up the stairs to grab the back of her head. She stated that at the time, she was afraid that Depp might push her sister down the stairs as she saw Depp raise his hand to assault her, so she swung at him.
These were just the key moments of the dispute, with many more claims detailed throughout the trial. Was this “the performance of her [Heard’s] life”, as Depp’s legal team regarded, or were there pieces of truth about the abuse on both sides?