Johnny Depp v Amber Heard: Opening statements for $100m defamation trial begin in Virginia

Johnny Depp v Amber Heard: Opening statements for $100m defamation trial begin in Virginia

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Johnny Depp’s attorneys have told how a ‘deeply troubled’ Amber Heard went to great lengths to pursue and woo the actor, before flipping the script and continuingly berating him. 

Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez said in opening statements of his $100million defamation trial Tuesday, ‘Miss Heard is a profoundly troubled person who manipulates the people around her.’

Vasquez described how they first met in 2009 on the set of the film The Rum Diary. ‘She pursued him, she wooed him,’ Vasquez said. ‘She went to great lengths to win him over by playing the doting girlfriend and it worked – he fell head over heels in love with her.’ 

‘She would resort to physical violence, throwing things at him, hitting him, she would tell him he was a coward, he wasn’t man enough because he wouldn’t stay and fight with her.’

But Heard’s team told a very different story. Attorney Elaine Charlson Bredehoft told the jury that Depp is filled with rage and is ‘like a demon.’

‘He viewed his wife Amber like his mother and his sister that he hates,’ Bredehoft said, adding that his rage was ‘fueled by the alcohol and the drugs.’

Johnny Depp’s $100million defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard began with opening arguments Tuesday in Fairfax, Virginia

The former spouses are preparing to square off over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post calling herself a domestic violence survivor

Amber Heard is seen in court giving a woman a hug before opening statements begin 

Depp claims he was booted from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise because of the ‘clear implication’ he was the abuser in Heard’s op-ed

Vasquez said that Depp’s friends saw ‘red flags all over the place’ and over time ‘the real miss Heard began to emerge.’ 

‘She would berate him, scream at him, he would try to appease….but it would always happen again’.

Vasquez continued, ‘He started coping with Miss Heard in the same way he did as a child, try to get away but his trying to leave would enrage Miss Heard.

Miss Heard equated violence and anger with passion, according to Vasquez. 

‘She would apologize with poetic excuses as if the violence just proved how fierce and overwhelming her love for him.’

Vasquez told the jury they would hear from Depp’s security about how they would have to remove Heard while she was screaming at him.

Vasquez said: ‘When Mr. Depp and Miss Heard traveled together – his team had to book an extra room for him so he had somewhere to go when Miss Heard became enraged.’

Vasquez said that the former couple’s marriage counselor would describe Heard as the ‘aggressor’ in the relationship. 

People close to him encourage Depp to get a post nuptial agreement, according to Vasquez. 

Vasquez said, ‘She became outraged at the suggestion that Mr. Depp might leave her. She berated him and when he tried to leave she became violent, so violent in fact she threw a bottle at him which hit his hand and exploded, it severed the end of one of his fingers.’ 

‘Miss Heard tried to avoid public humiliation and present herself as a noble survivor and representative of the MeToo movement. You will hear evidence that Miss Heard is obsessed with her public image. It’s her number one priority. After she received a $7million settlement from Mr. Depp she released a statement claiming she wanted nothing from him and would donated it to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and ACLU. But then she did not make the donations.

‘Quite simply Miss Heard had publicly cast herself in the role of a domestic abuse survivor. There was no going back. When Mr. Depp stood up for his good name, Miss Heard couldn’t back down.’

Vasquez went on, ‘Miss Heard and her lawyers are going to tell you some truly horrific tales of abuse

‘They are designed to shock you and overwhelm you, they are designed to be explosive and distract you from common sense which will tell you it is all a lie. Not one incident of abuse could have happened as Miss Heard claims.

‘She tells lies and covers up that lie with still more lies in a constantly changing, evolving ever more dramatic story.’

Vasquez admitted that Depp had gone through ‘real struggled with substance abuse.’

She said: ‘But struggling with drugs and alcohol doesn’t make you an abuser. He’s also used some very colorful language, he uses words I don’t use and you probably don’t use and he uses them frequently. Mr .Depp is not perfect but he did not abuse Miss Heard.

‘This case is about what Miss Heard said in her op-ed. She painted a picture of herself as a heroic, innocent survivor of Mr. Depp. A beaten woman who finally stood up to her tormentor. Miss Heard used the allegations against Mr. Depp to raise her own profile and advance her own career.

‘She presented herself as the face of the MeToo movement, a virtuous representative of women who have truly suffered abuse. The evidence will show that was a lie’

Vasquez called the op-ed an ‘act of cruelty’.

She said: ‘Mr. Depp will go to his grave knowing that whatever he does there are people in the world who believe he abused a woman.’

Depp is seen taking a smoke break outside the courthouse after opening statements 

Johnny Depp was seen entering court in Fairfax, Virginia, Tuesday wearing a navy blue suit and shades. He gave his fans a thumbs up as he waked by and joked with his legal team before the trial began

Depp further alleges that his ex was the actual ‘perpetrator’ of the violent bouts that scarred their relationship

Amber Heard wore a gray suit and black top in court and appeared tense as she entered the courthouse Tuesday 

Depp’s other lawyer Ben Chew took the floor to begin opening statements before Vasquez. 

‘Some of you may recognize Mr. Deep from seeing him portray characters such as Edward Scissorhands or Jack Sparrow. For nearly 30 years Mr. Depp built a reputation as one of the most talented actors in Hollywood, a respected artist whose name was associated with success at the box office,’ Chew said. 

‘Today his name is associated with a lie, a false statement uttered by his former wife, the defendant Amber Heard, that falsely cast Mr. Depp, falsely and unfairly as the villain. A man who would violently abuse a woman.

 ‘This is a defamation case, it’s a case about how devastating words can be when they’re false and uttered publicly. A person who makes a false statement about someone else can be held responsible. That’s because words matter. They paint a picture in our mind.

‘Because of that, words can evoke strong emotions and cause irreparable harm to a person’s reputation and when – like Mr. Depp your career depends on your reputation, for whether movie producers want their films associated with, you that harm can be particularly devastating.’ 

The Pirates of the Caribbean actor was seen entering court in Fairfax, Virginia, Tuesday wearing a navy blue suit and shades. He gave his fans a thumbs up as he walked by and joked with his legal team before the trial began. 

Heard wore a gray suit and black top in court and appeared tense. 

The first witness will be called by Depp’s side, his sister Christi Dembrowski, who will appear in person.

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp – whose divorce was finalized in January 2017 – are seen together in  California the previous year 

Next up was Heard’s team of lawyers. 

Attorney Elaine Charlson Bredehoft took the floor, telling the jury, ‘This is the story of a very different Johnny Depp (who) has an enormous amount of rage.

‘There will be testimony from therapists where he admits he has rage, he’s like a demon and he views his wife Amber like his mother and his sister that he hates. It will be fueled by the alcohol and the drugs.’

Holding open her arms to show how big it is, Bredehoft she said the jury will hear of a ‘list of prescription drugs that his concierge doctor and teams’ bring Depp for which he pays $150,000 a month and has done so since 2014 that ‘doesn’t include cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA.’

Bredehoft said: ‘It’s during these rages Mr. Depp engaged in verbal, physical, sexual abuse of Amber.’ 

‘Amber made the mistake millions before her have. She chose to stay and try to fix the problem, so she stayed.  She thought she could fix him, if she could get him sober and clean.

‘She kept trying, she went to therapists, she went to couples therapy.’

Bredehoft said Depp didn’t want her to work and then began controlling what she wore. 

He began looking at her scripts and nixing any sex scenes, she claimed, and accused Heard of sleeping with ‘every one of her co-stars.’ 

The former flames are preparing to square up over a December 2018 op-ed Heard penned for the Washington Post declaring herself a domestic violence survivor.

The article did not mention Depp by name but the veteran actor sued for $50 million, claiming he was booted from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise because of the ‘clear implication’ he was the abuser.

Depp’s suit claims Heard presented the world with a ‘hoax’ account of the infamous May 21, 2016 dust up that brought the couple’s tumultuous marriage to an end, complete with faked injuries and crocodile tears.

He further alleges that his ex-wife was the actual ‘perpetrator’ of the violent bouts that scarred their relationship, including a notorious incident in Australia where she allegedly severed his finger with a vodka bottle.

Heard has countersued for $100 million, claiming vengeful Depp has waged a years-long smear campaign, using media allies and internet trolls to silence her and derail her acting career.

She stands by her claim that Depp hurled a phone in her face and viciously battered her during the fateful 2016 fight despite LAPD officers deciding there was no grounds to investigate.

The officers are among dozens of possible witnesses slated to give evidence either in person or via video link over the next six weeks, including Hollywood actors Paul Bettany, James Franco and Ellen Barkin. 

This photo shown in court from May 2016 of Amber Heard with an apparently bruised cheek, which has been referred to as an exhibit

Another photo shown to court shows a mark below her eye in an alleged attack Heard claims was her ex-husband’s final act or violence towards her

Another intriguing name is Elon Musk whom Depp has accused of having an affair with Heard while they were still married, an accusation the Space X mogul has denied.

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s caustic relationship 

February 3, 2015

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard marry in a private civil ceremony at their LA home, four years after they met as co-stars on the set of The Rum Diary. The couple celebrate with a lavish reception on an idyllic private island in the Bahamas that Depp bought in 2004 for $3.6 million.

April 21, 2015

Heard breaches Australia’s biosecurity laws when she and Depp fail to declare their two Yorkshire terriers when they arrive Down Under on a private jet for the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Heard admits falsifying quarantine documents and is placed on a $1,000 one-month good behavior bond.

May 23, 2016

Heard files for divorce after 15 months of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences. Four days later a judge issues a temporary restraining order against Depp over domestic violence allegations. Pictures of Heard’s alleged injuries hit the tabloids but the LAPD finds no evidence of a crime.

August 16, 2016

Depp and Heard reach a $7 million divorce settlement which the actress promises to give to charity. Their marriage was ‘intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,’ the former lovers say in a statement. ‘There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm’.

December 18, 2018

The Washington Post publishes an op-ed by Heard, an ambassador for women’s rights at for the American Civil Liberties Union, urging support for women who suffer domestic violence. ‘Two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,’ reads the headline.

March 1, 2019

Despite not being named in the art icle, Depp files a $50 million defamation suit in Fairfax Circuit Court, Virginia saying it implied he was an abuser and got him fired from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Depp dismisses Heard’s abuse allegations as a ‘hoax’ and claims he was actually the victim of her violence.

August 10, 2020

Heard countersues for $100 million, claiming vengeful Depp and his lawyer Adam Waldman targeted her with a vicious smear campaign, using media allies and internet trolls to amplify false stories about her and derail her acting career.

November 1, 2020

Depp faces an uphill battle to save his reputation after he loses a libel battle with a British tabloid that labeled him a ‘wife beater’. A judge in London’s rules that The Sun’s 2018 article was ‘substantially true’ and that the father-of-two had attacked Heard a dozen times, causing her to fear for her life on three occasions.

April 11, 2022

After lengthy delays due to the Covid pandemic, the former flames finally lock horns in Fairfax County, Virginia where the Washington Post servers that published the disputed op-ed are based. The trial is expected to last six to seven weeks and celebrities tipped to give evidence include James Franco, Paul Bettany and Ellen Barkin.

But as revealed last week, the world’s richest man will likely swerve proceedings because he’s not a Virginia resident and therefore can’t be compelled to give evidence.

Depp is fighting an uphill battle to salvage his reputation after Britain’s High Court ruled against him last year when he sued The Sun newspaper for calling him a ‘wife beater’.

After weeks of testimony, Mr Justice Nicol concluded that the outlet’s 2018 article was ‘substantially true’ and that the father-of-two had attacked Heard a dozen times, causing her to fear for her life on three occasions.

The London court also heard a trove of shocking texts Depp had sent to Avengers star Bettany, vowing: ‘Lets burn Amber.’

‘Let’s drown her before we burn her !!!,’ he wrote in November 2013. ‘I will fk her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she’s dead.’

Sources close to Depp say he never contemplated settling or dropping the US case and is desperate for a second bite of the cherry in Virginia where the London result will be kept from jurors.

Armed with a battery of highly-paid lawyers – including Kathleen Zellner of Making a Murderer fame – he’s confident of tipping the balance with additional evidence that didn’t feature in the ‘wife beater’ case. has led the world in revealing much of the material over the past two years, from explosive audio recordings to bombshell depositions and police videos.

The cache includes bodycam footage from LAPD officers who visited the ex-couple’s LA apartment on the night of the blowout 2016 fight.

Heard claims that her ex-husband assaulted her before smashing up their $1.5 million home – but his lawyers will argue the videos don’t show any trace of damage.

Depp’s team will also cast doubt on photos of Heard’s injuries by calling upon forensic pathologists and computer experts to explain how the wounds don’t match up with the abuse described by the Aquaman actress.

And they may also confront Heard with audio recordings in which she talks about hitting Depp and questions whether anyone would believe he was a domestic violence victim.

‘I can’t promise I won’t get physical again. God I fking sometimes get so mad I lose it,’ she says in one clip, previously published by

‘Tell the world Johnny Depp, a man, I’m a victim too of domestic violence … see how many believe or side with you,’ she adds in a second.

Heard’s promise to give away her entire $7 million divorce settlement, splitting it between the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, will also come under the microscope. previously revealed that Depp’s lawyers subpoenaed both organizations last year to find out if they ever got the money.

They will tell jurors that the hospital got $100,000, rather than the promised $3.5 million, while the ACLU received just $450,000.

Another $500,000 came from someone named ‘Elon’, who Depp’s lawyers will say is Elon Musk.

Heard insists she will honor her pledge – but hasn’t been able to do so thus far because of the spiraling cost of her legal war with Depp.

Insiders believe the couple have each spent upwards of $20 million to date.

Depp and Heard met on the set of The Rum Diary in 2011, married four years later – then split in a little over a year amid a slew of blood curdling domestic violence allegations and tabloid headlines.

After finalizing their divorce in early 2017 the feud appeared to have fizzled until Heard published her December 2018 op-ed, headed: ‘I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.’

The article prompted Depp to file for defamation in Virginia, where the Washington Post’s servers and several of its offices are based, stating: ‘Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse; she is a perpetrator.’

Heard’s counterclaim argues that it’s both true that she suffered years of abuse at the hands of her ‘monster’ ex and that it’s her right to talk about it under the First Amendment.

Her lawyers will argue that various media statements made by Depp’s longtime ally and lawyer Adam Waldman branding her a liar and calling her claims a hoax were false, defamatory and designed to wreck her career.

She’s also accused Depp and Waldman of harassing her on Twitter, promulgating smear stories and using fake accounts and Russian ‘bots’ to amplify negative coverage, demanding twice as much in damages from her former husband.

According to confidantes it’s not about the money, however, it’s about Heard ‘reclaiming her voice’ and her ability to advocate for abuse victims.

If she succeeds, three-times Oscar-nominated Depp, the globally-famous star of more than 50 Hollywood movies grossing $10 billion, could lose his entire fortune as well as what’s left of his reputation.

But there’s no turning back now, according to his rep.

‘This case being brought to trial is proof that the court acknowledges the notable amount of preliminary wins, evidence and witnesses in support of Johnny,’ the spokeswoman said.

‘To decline the opportunity to clear one’s name and allow someone taking advantage of the system to walk away with zero repercussions would be careless and set a dangerous precedent for similar situations in the future.’

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