A witness for the plaintiff in Johnny Depp’s defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard was suddenly dismissed Thursday after admitting she had watched trial coverage, which is against the rules for witnesses.
Deuters said she had seen some clips online and bits of witness testimonies. Azcarate promptly excused her from the stand and said she would instruct the jury to strike her testimony.
This surprising moment came after a long day of personal details about Depp and Heard’s volatile relationship, which continued to spill out in Fairfax County court as the pair’s former couples therapist testified about what she saw as “mutual abuse” between the actors.
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million for defamation based on a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post, calling herself a survivor of domestic abuse. Heard is countersuing him for $100 million for defamation because his lawyer called those allegations a “hoax.” (The suit is taking place in Fairfax County because The Post’s printing press and online server are in Virginia, although The Post is not a defendant in the case.)
Laurel Anderson, a Los Angeles clinical psychologist, met with Depp and Heard separately and together for about 10 months starting in fall 2015, as their marriage fell apart. Heard filed for divorce and sought a restraining order against Depp in May 2016.
Anderson, whose video testimony was recorded earlier this year and played for the jury for about an hour, said that while she never personally witnessed any abuse between the two, she determined from her conversations with the couple that sometimes Depp started a physical altercation, and sometimes Heard initiated one.
In one session, she said, Depp characterized their dynamic as “chaotic” and “violent,” noting the actor said that Heard “gave as good as she got.” Anderson said Heard described hitting Depp if he hit her. Anderson shared several facts she observed about the couple: Both, she said, were abused by a parent as children; Heard, she said, initiated violence partly due to a deep fear of abandonment, calculating that fighting with Depp was better than losing him. Anderson added that it seemed like Depp tried to “de-escalate” the situations more often than Heard did.
“She loved him, he loved her,” Anderson said, reading from her notes at the time. Heard said she “wanted to want” to divorce Depp, Anderson explained, but felt like she couldn’t, and then the relationship kept deteriorating. At one point, Anderson said, Heard — who once showed up with a bruised face that she said was after a fight with Depp — started to strategize about whether she should file a report to police before she left him.
Anderson told the jury about more of their unhealthy dynamics. She said she had to confront Heard about her rapid-fire style of speaking and frequent interruptions that made it difficult for Depp to speak up in their couples sessions (he walked out of one).
Earlier in the day, Heard’s former personal assistant Katherine “Kate” James appeared via video testimony, causing light laughter in the courtroom with her abrupt responses to questions about how much she was paid by Heard when she worked for her from 2012 through 2015. “Very poorly,” she said. When asked if it was $1,500 a week, she replied “Are you kidding? I wish. My God.”
James, who said she was regularly around Depp and Heard, said she never saw evidence that Depp ever hit or mistreated Heard, and when asked how she would know that when she wasn’t around them all the time, she replied, “I would have seen the damage even if I wasn’t physically present.” James added that “it did not seem like a perfect relationship” and said she thought that was probably because of Heard’s insecurities.
James said that she remembered Depp as being peaceful, kind and quiet — though she did acknowledge a text exchange in which Depp referred to Heard as “scum” after their split and said the two of them should “fix her flabby ass.” She said Heard was prone to fits of rage and verbal abuse. James said she would sometimes wake up to a barrage of “abusive” texts that Heard sent her overnight.
The final witness of the day was David Kipper, Depp’s physician, who said he created a plan to help the actor with his addiction to prescription pain medication, and mentioned Depp’s struggles to stay sober. Via video testimony, he also discussed Depp’s troubles with Heard and implied that their relationship did not help his addiction problems.
Testimony in the trial has been moving slowly. Depp and Heard have more than 100 potential witnesses between them. Before court adjourned Wednesday, the judge warned both sides that she told the jury the trial would wrap up the week before Memorial Day and that she planned on sticking to that schedule, so the attorneys should pick up the pace.
There is no testimony Friday. The trial will resume Monday.