Amber Heard said she knew she should leave Johnny Depp the first time he hit her, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
“I knew I couldn’t just forgive him, right, because that means it will happen again. Like, I’ve seen the health class videos,” Heard told the court through tears as she took the stand in Depp’s libel lawsuit against her. “I was heartbroken.”
She walked away after being slapped, but a few days later Depp came back with an apology, a few cases of her favorite wine, and a promise he’d never do it again, Heard testified.
“I wanted to believe him, so I chose to,” she said.
Depp, 58, is suing Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia after she wrote a December 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” The article never mentions Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyers say he was defamed nevertheless because it clearly referred to accusations she made in 2016 during their divorce proceedings.
Heard took the stand for the first time Wednesday afternoon in the now four-week trial. She described to jurors how they met filming a movie and fell in love.
Despite their 22-year age difference, Heard said there was an instant connection when Depp met with her as he considered her for a role in his film “The Rum Diary.”
“I was a no-name actor. I was 22. He was twice my age. He’s this world-famous actor and here we are getting along about obscure books, old blues” music, said Heard, now 36.
While they had chemistry during filming of the movie, she said they didn’t begin dating until doing a press tour for the film’s release in 2011. At the outset, they kept their relationship a secret.
“We weren’t doing normal life stuff. … We were in this bubble of secrecy, and it felt like a warm glow,” she said.
She said the first act of physical violence came as she was looking at one of his tattoos and couldn’t read it. She laughed when Depp told her it said “Wino” — an alteration to a tattoo he had made when he’d been dating actor Winona Ryder.
“I just laughed because I thought he was joking, and [he] slapped me across the face,” Heard said.
She said she laughed again, thinking it must be a joke.
“I didn’t know what was going on. I just stared at him, kind of laughing still, thinking he was going to start laughing too, to tell me it was a joke. But he didn’t. He said, ‘You think it’s so funny? You think it’s funny, b****?’ … And he slapped me again.”
She said she didn’t know how to react. “I just stared at him because I didn’t know what else to do. And he slaps me one more time. Hard.” She said the third slap knocked her off balance.
Depp, who has already taken the stand and testified for four days, told jurors a different version of the story.
“It didn’t happen,” he said of the alleged assault. “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.”
Heard also testified about Depp’s use of drugs and alcohol. She spoke about a time she and Depp took MDMA on a flight to Russia, explaining that she felt pressure to prove to him she was not a “lesbian camp counselor,” as he’d called her. According to Heard, the couple convinced the flight attendant to also take the drug. She later sat with the couple and touched Heard, which allegedly prompted Depp to grab the flight attendant’s wrist and tell her he could break it. The flight attendant then fled to the front of the plane, where she remained for the rest of the flight, Heard said.
When the couple arrived at their Moscow hotel room, Heard says Depp shoved her and hit her in the face. Heard fled to the bathroom, where she waited a while. When she came out, Depp’s bodyguard gestured to her nose and gave her a handkerchief because she was bleeding.
“I just felt really embarrassed… ashamed,” Heard said in court.
Heard also spoke of a separate incident from July 2013. She said Depp was selling his yacht to J.K. Rowling, so he took his kids and Heard to his island for a goodbye to the boat. Meanwhile, Depp was “off the wagon again,” as Heard tells it, but was hiding his drinking from his kids.
“There’s just no off button with Johnny,” Heard told the courtroom.
She said his kids started to catch on — at one point the actor jumped off the boat in a bizarre way that made his daughter panic and cry. Heard said she tried to calm his daughter, but Depp later accused Heard of outing him to his kids, which she said she never did. Depp then allegedly slammed Heard up against their bedroom wall, holding her by her neck. She testifies that he told her she was an “embarrassment” and that he could kill her.
Afterwards, Heard said she and Depp’s daughter called for a helicopter to take them off the island.
Heard’s testimony came after a psychologist hired by her lawyers testified that Heard suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from multiple acts of abuse, including sexual violence, inflicted on her by Depp.
Depp testified he never struck Heard and that he was the abuse victim. He said he was punched and struck by her on many occasions, and that she threw things at him. He described Heard as having a “need for conflict.”
Psychologist Dawn Hughes, in her testimony Tuesday, acknowledged that Heard at times perpetrated physical violence against Depp, but said it paled in comparison to violence she suffered, which left her intimidated and fearful for her safety.
During cross-examination Wednesday, Hughes acknowledged that she wasn’t making factual determinations that Depp assaulted Heard on specific occasions. But she testified that Heard’s account of her experiences are consistent with accounts of those experiencing domestic violence.
Hughes said the sexual assaults included Heard being forced by Depp to perform oral sex. On cross-examination, though, Depp’s lawyers noted that, during psychological testing performed as part of Hughes’ evaluation, Heard denied being forced to perform oral sex.
Hughes said Heard initially was framing the encounters as consensual but “angry sex.”
“She wasn’t framing them as physical force,” Hughes said.
The trial continues to capture public attention. More than 100 people were lined up Wednesday before 7 a.m. — three hours before proceedings began — outside the courthouse for the 100 seats made available in the courtroom. Most were Depp supporters and fans.