FAIRFAX, Va. - There’s not much room for middle ground in the testimony thus far from Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in Depp’s libel suit against his ex-wife.
One of them is lying.
Heard has not yet finished telling the jury her side of things. Her testimony will continue May 16 once the trial — which has already stretched on for four weeks — resumes after a one-week break. Then she will face what one can safely assume will be an aggressive cross-examination in a case where both sides have employed scorched-earth tactics going back years to when the suit was first filed.
Depp is suing Heard in Virginia for libel over an op-ed she wrote in December 2018 in The Washington Post describing herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." The article doesn’t mention Depp by name, but his lawyers say the article defames him nevertheless because it’s a clear reference to the highly publicized allegations Heard made when she filed for divorce in 2016 and obtained a temporary restraining order against him.
Depp says he never physically abused Heard, while Heard says she was assaulted on more than a dozen occasions.
Below are synopses of a few incidents and their divergent accounts.
THE FIRST TIME
Heard says the first time Depp ever struck her was in 2013, when she made the mistake of laughing at one of his tattoos. Heard said there was an older tattoo she couldn’t make out, and Depp told her it said "Wino."
In fact, it used to say "Winona Forever," a tattoo that Depp got when he was dating actor Winona Ryder. He had it altered to "Wino Forever" when they broke up.
Heard said she laughed, and Depp responded by slapping her. Thinking the slap must be a joke, she laughed. Depp responded by slapping her twice more, with the third slap knocking Heard off balance.
"It was so stupid, so insignificant," Heard told the jury. "I thought it must be a joke."
Depp, while he was on the stand, flatly denied it occurred.
"It didn’t happen," he said. "Why would I take such great offense to someone making fun of a tattoo on my body? That allegation never made any sense to me."
THE FINGER AND THE BOURBON BOTTLE
Both sides say the worst violence occurred in March 2015 in Australia, when Depp was shooting the fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie.
Heard said Depp sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle — for the first time Thursday she identified a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon as the offending instrument after she said she saw a photo of the distinctively square bottle — as part of an alcohol-fueled rage. Heard came to Australia after shooting her own film and Depp immediately accused her of sleeping with her co-stars, she said.
Depp, for his part, says he was the victim of the violence. He testified that Heard was irate over efforts by Depp’s lawyers to have her sign a post-nuptial agreement, as well as the fact that Depp wasn’t adhering to pledges of sobriety to Heard’s satisfaction.
He said he escaped the argument by pouring himself a drink, at which point Heard threw a vodka bottle at him. Depp said he responded by pouring another drink, and this time Heard threw another vodka bottle at him that smashed against his hand while it rested on a counter and severed the tip of his middle finger.
Photos of the aftermath show Depp wrote vulgar messages to his wife in blood on the walls of the house. Jurors have also seen contemporaneous text messages Depp sent to others in which he said he cut off his own finger. Depp said he made up that story to protect Heard and avoid police involvement.
ALCOHOL AND DRUGS
While not a specific incident, Depp and Heard painted very different portraits of Depp’s drug and alcohol use.
Heard said drugs and alcohol — along with paranoid jealousy — is what turned him from the man she loved into the "monster" who made her fear for her life. She said he hid his drug and alcohol use from her and from his family but his behavior made it clear he was high or drunk, often to the point of incoherence.
"Johnny on speed is very different from Johnny on opiates. Johnny on opiates is very different from Adderall and cocaine Johnny, which is very different from Quaaludes Johnny, but I had to get good at paying attention to the different versions of him," Heard said.
Indeed, Heard says Depp’s denials of physical abuse lack credibility in part because he would black out and forget what he’d done.
Depp, for his part, admitted that he’d become addicted at one point to oxycodone and underwent a detox process in 2014. But he said the allegations of uncontrolled drug and alcohol use are grossly embellished.
"I’ve always had a pretty big tolerance for alcohol," he testified. "I’ve never had a physical addiction to alcohol."