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Heard cross-examination begins; she says trial is emotional ‘torture’

Amber Heard on May 17 told a Fairfax, Va., courtroom that she divorced Johnny Depp because she was afraid she would "not survive" if she stayed with him. (Video: Reuters)
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After a week-long break in court proceedings, Amber Heard continued to testify Monday in a defamation lawsuit brought by her ex-husband Johnny Depp in Fairfax County Circuit Court, telling a jury about further alleged physical violence she said she suffered during her time with Depp, saying it got worse the more he drank alcohol and used drugs.

She broke down on the stand multiple times as she recalled filing for divorce and a restraining order in May 2016, saying she did not want to end their marriage but was afraid she would not survive if she stayed with him. Depp, who has denied all allegations of abuse, is suing her for $50 million for defamation after she published an op-ed in The Washington Post in 2018 in which she referred to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. Depp has said the article ruined his reputation and career.

Heard also cried as she talked about the emotional toll of the trial — she is countersuing Depp for $100 million after his lawyer repeatedly called her accusations a hoax, which she said torpedoed her career. “The most intimate, embarrassing, deeply humiliating things that I’ve survived are used against me every day, over and over again. It’s torture. I’m in so much pain, emotionally,” Heard said, and referenced her 1-year-old daughter. “I have a baby. I want to move on. I want Johnny to move on, too. I want him to leave me alone.”

Cross-examination began later in the afternoon. One of Depp’s lawyers, Camille Vasquez, started by playing an audio recording that the jury has heard before, where Heard told Depp: “Tell the world, tell them … I, Johnny Depp, man, I am a victim too of domestic violence.”

Vasquez, who said that Depp was actually Heard’s victim, wondered whether Heard said that in a mocking way, saying that no one would believe a man could be a domestic violence victim.

“I wasn’t saying it because he was a man,” Heard replied. “I was saying it because he beat me up for five years.”

Vasquez went through a list of Heard’s accusations of violence from Depp, and asked why photos of Heard taken around those alleged incidents did not show signs of visible injuries: in March 2013, when Heard said Depp hit her so hard it felt like her teeth went through her lip; and in May 2014 when she said she thought Depp broke her nose. Heard said she had turned over all photos taken after allegations of domestic violence, but it was up to her attorneys to use them, not her.

Vasquez displayed photos of the night after Heard said she thought her nose was broken, and pointed out that in photos taken at a public event, her nose did not appear injured. “You should see what it looked like underneath the makeup,” Heard said.

The attorney confirmed with Heard several times that she did not seek medical attention after she said Depp abused her, and did not tell anyone after Depp’s alleged sexual assault of her with a liquor bottle in March 2015. “No,” Heard said. “I did not want to tell anyone.”

Earlier in the day, one of Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, showed the jury pictures from a public event in early 2015 in which Heard had lines on her arms; Heard said they were scars from when Depp held her down on a countertop and she cut her arms on glass. Heard testified that later that year, Depp got sober and things were peaceful — but alleged that several months later, on their honeymoon, they got in a fight when he started drinking again and he wrapped a shirt around her neck and held it there until she passed out. She said shortly after, he slapped her in the face and punched her across the jaw when he became jealous over a sex scene he thought she had performed in for a movie.

Heard testified to what happened the night of May 21, 2016 — very different from Depp’s account — when police were called to the couple’s Los Angeles penthouse. She said Depp was inebriated and they got in an argument with one of Heard’s friends on speakerphone. She alleged that Depp started screaming obscenities and took Heard’s phone and threw it at her face; afterward, she said, he grabbed her hair and yanked her off the couch. At that point, Heard said, her friend who lived in the penthouse next door ran in and intervened, and Depp’s security arrived and ushered him out. She said the actor knocked items off countertops and shattered a framed photo on the way out.

Heard’s friend called the police, she said, but when they arrived, she panicked and wanted to protect Depp, so she refused to file a report; earlier in the trial, police officers testified they did not see signs of injury. Bredehoft showed the jury photos of different angles and different lighting of what Heard said was her face after the incident, which showed a red mark on her cheek and a bruise near her eye.

That week, Heard filed for a restraining order and divorce and accused Depp of abuse. Almost immediately, she said, he initiated a smear campaign against her. “I was begging Johnny to not make me prove what I’ve had to sit on the stand in front of all of you and prove. … I was begging not to do this and sit where I’m sitting today,” Heard said. She said it makes no sense for anyone to call this a “hoax,” because she didn’t file charges against him, even though that was later used against her. “Just don’t call me a liar, don’t say this isn’t real,” Heard said. “Because I’m the walking proof of it.”

During divorce proceedings, Heard said the most important thing to her was the mutual statement they eventually signed saying that no one had made false allegations for financial gain, given that she was being called a “gold digger” and wanted to clear her name. She said she had no interest in Depp’s money and has every intention of donating her full $7 million settlement to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the American Civil Liberties Union. This led to a tense back and forth with Vasquez, who said it appeared that Heard wanted the good press with donating money to charity, but had not actually given the full amount; Heard pointed out that she had to stop payments since Depp sued her for $50 million, but intends to donate the full amount.

As detailed earlier in the trial, Heard confirmed that the ACLU wrote the first draft of the 2018 Post op-ed; she said she did not want to include Depp by name or reference, and did not come up with the headline. ("Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”) “I was happy to weigh in on what I saw as the unique phenomenon that typically women experience in our culture when they come forward against somebody more powerful when they speak up about gender-based violence,” she said. Heard dismissed the idea that the op-ed was published to help promote “Aquaman,” which was released around that time.

“A major motion picture like that is not aided by the publication of an op-ed in The Washington Post,” she said.

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