Amber Heard finally got her chance to challenge Johnny Depp’s version of their marriage in court on Thursday as her legal team pressed the actor on his alcohol and drug use, and texts in which he described wanting to kill his then-wife and defile her body.
The cross-examination by Heard’s attorneys followed two days of unopposed testimony by Depp, in which the actor painted Heard as the aggressor in their three-year marriage.
Depp, 58, has accused Heard of defaming him with false accusations that ruined his reputation and career; Heard, 36, is counter-suing for $ 100m, claiming that she told the truth and that her opinion was protected free speech when she wrote that she was as a “public figure representing domestic abuse” in a 2018 Washington Post article.
The issue for each is credibility, as each has attempted to shred the other’s. At the start of the legal showdown in Fairfax, Virginia, ten days ago, Heard’s attorneys said Depp physically and sexually assaulted her while abusing drugs and alcohol. On Thursday they followed up, asking Depp about text messages he shared with the actor Paul Bettany, singers Patti Smith and Marilyn Manson (real name Brian Warner), as well as his doctor and security chief Stephen Deuters.
In several of the messages, Depp used the term “monster” to describe the person he became under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The court heard damning exchanges from 2013 and 2014 between Depp and Bettany in which he described his desire to harm Heard: “Let’s drown her before we burn her !!!” he wrote, and said he would defile her corpse “afterwards to make sure she’s dead”.
As Depp brought the action, the legal burden is his to show that Heard defamed him when she described herself as a domestic abuse survivor. Heard has admitted to hitting Depp on a recording played in court during which she said she struck Depp but didn’t “deck” him.
In another exhibit, jurors were shown a photograph of Depp asleep after a 17-hour work day when he was also taking opioids. Heard’s attorney Ben Rottenborn asked Depp if he was aware of the lengths to which Heard went to help him, and played the court an audio recording in which she expressed concern that her husband might choke on his own vomit if left unattended.
“She didn’t like it when it was her perception that I was high on drugs and alcohol,” Depp said during Thursday’s testimony. Heard’s lawyers argue that Depp has no credibility when he denies abusing Heard as he often drank and used drugs to the point of blacking out.
To that purpose, Heard’s lawyers introduced text messages from Elton John, who was in 2013 helping Depp get sober during the early stages of his romance with Heard. Depp wrote to the singer describing his ex-wife Vanessa Paradis as a “French extortionist” who, he said, would seek to brainwash his new girlfriend against him.
The court also listened to a recording of Depp moaning during a now infamous flight from Boston to Los Angeles. Depp later texted Bettany to say that he drank “all night before I picked Amber up to fly to LA this past Sunday. Ugly, mate. No food for days. Powders. Half a bottle of Whiskey, a thousand Red Bull and vodkas, pills, 2 bottles of Champers on plane ”.
Depp has previously tested that he drank only a glass of Champagne as he boarded the plane and, after taking two painkillers, locked himself in the plane’s bathroom and went to sleep to avoid Heard’s badgering.
Jurors have also been shown a box in which Depp allegedly kept cocaine and several large bags of marijuana. In his text message to Patti Smith, Depp said he was “so disappointed in himself” after a visit to New York City in 2014 in which he got drunk and fought with Heard before they were married the following year.
Heard’s lawyers have sought to show that Depp’s loss of work, including being dropped from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, came before her 2018 opinion piece. They argue that the damage to Depp’s professional reputation was due to his own behavior.