Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial: Summary and timeline
The defamation case brought by actor Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard is ongoing and will likely take weeks to conclude.
But what preceded the case? Depp and Heard’s relationship began more than a decade ago, and eventually devolved into what appears to have been a toxic marriage.
The couple split in 2016, but have continued to battle in court over an op-ed Heard wrote for The Washington Post in 2018, in which she described surviving domestic violence — without mentioning Depp by name.
Depp is suing for $50 million in damages and denies ever being physically violent with Heard. Heard is countersuing for $100 million and claims she was only ever violent with Depp in self-defense or defense of her younger sister.
As the case plays out, social media has become a frenzy, devouring sound bites, evidence and clips of the courtroom. Depp spent four days testifying, and many celebrities are listed in court documents as potential witnesses who could be called to testify, including James Franco and Paul Bettany.
The trial, which is being held in Fairfax County, Virginia, is expected to take weeks.
Here’s a timeline of Depp and Heard’s relationship leading up to the court case.
Depp and Heard meet during the filming of “The Rum Diary,” a film based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Depp played Paul Kemp, a journalist who moves to Puerto Rico and becomes obsessed with Chenault, played by Heard, who is engaged to a businessman.
Depp and Heard begin dating, according to court documents from Heard. The same year, Depp and long-term partner Vanessa Paradis end their 14-year relationship. The couple has two children.
Heard is spotted wearing an engagement ring, and Depp appears to confirm the engagement later in interviews.
Eventually, the engagement is confirmed in The Daily Mail.
Heard and Depp get married in a private ceremony. The couple come under fire for sneaking their dogs, Pistol and Boo, into Australia.
The pair later release a somber apology video.
Heard is eventually charged with two counts of illegally importing Pistol and Boo into Australia and one count of producing a false document.
In May, Heard files for divorce and is granted a temporary restraining order against him.
Heard claims that Depp had thrown a phone at her, leaving her bruised.
“During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny Depp has been verbally and physically abusive to me,” Heard said in a sworn declaration. “He has a short fuse. He is often paranoid and his temper is exceptionally scary for me.”
She wrote she was living “in fear that Johnny will return to [our house] unannounced to terrorize me, physically and emotionally.”
A judge rejected Heard’s request that Depp attend a year’s worth of anger management classes and refused to extend the protective order to the couple’s dogs.
Police did not press charges against Depp, who also denied attacking the actress.
Later, in a joint statement, the couple announced they had settled their divorce.
“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” the statement said, adding that Heard would be donating any proceeds from the settlement to charity.
The couple’s divorce is finalized.
Heard writes the op-ed for The Washington Post at the heart of the defamation lawsuit. In the op-ed, she writes: “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
Heard’s article mentions her experience with abuse from her childhood to adulthood. It does not include Depp’s name.
At the crux of the article, Heard asks for support for women experiencing domestic violence.
“We have an opening now to bolster and build institutions protective of women. For starters, Congress can reauthorize and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act,” she wrote.
Depp sues Heard for defamation, claiming the Post article was a ruse for Heard to gin up positive press for herself. Depp also claims she is not the victim of domestic violence but instead the perpetrator.
Depp seeks $50 million in damages.
Audio of Heard allegedly saying she hit Depp is published by The Daily Mail.
Later, a libel trial is held in the United Kingdom over the British newspaper “The Sun” calling Depp a “wife-beater.” Depp sues both executive editor Dan Wootton and The Sun’s parent company News Group Newspapers.
Depp’s ex-partner Paradis defends Depp by submitting a statement saying the actor “is the farthest thing” from a violent person.
Depp brings forward claims that Heard had affairs with businessman Elon Musk and actor James Franco. He also claims Heard put her own fecal matter in their bed and was physically violent toward him.
In November, a judge sided with The Sun.
“Domestic abuse victims must never be silenced and we thank the judge for his careful consideration and thank Amber Heard for her courage in giving evidence to the court,” the newspaper said in a statement.
After the ruling, Depp posts a statement on Instagram saying he had been asked to exit the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise.
“I wish to let you know that I have been asked to resign by Warner Bros. from my role as Grindelwald in ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and I have respected and agreed to that request,” he wrote.
Heard countersues Depp for $100 million.
On April 11, the weekslong defamation trial kicks off, with Heard and Depp appearing in court in Fairfax County, Virginia.
In the defense’s opening statement, attorney J. Benjamin Rottenborn reads the entirety of Heard’s Post op-ed to the jury, and tells them that the actor exercised her right to free speech.
On April 19, Depp takes the stand and testifies over the course of four days. Attorneys for Depp lay out evidence of Heard’s alleged abuse, while the Heard’s lawyers focuses on Depp’s past drug and alcohol use, text messages and recordings, claiming Depp perpetrated the violence.
While on the stand, Depp claims that Heard would instigate arguments and escalate their feuds.
“It’s hard to explain, but the argument would start here, but it would roll around and become this circular thing of its own,” Depp said. “You’d get back to the beginning. … Now it’s heightened even more, and it’s still circular. There’s no way in or out.”
At the end of his four-day testimony, when asked what he had lost due to Heard’s op-ed in the Post, Depp replied, “Nothing less than everything.”
At the start of May, Heard fires her crisis public relations firm Precision Strategies. Heard reportedly had been frustrated by the negative coverage she’d received following Depp’s testimony. Heard’s new team is led by David Shane.
During the first day of her testimony on May 4, Heard paints a picture of a man who oscillated between active addiction and sobriety, which she said made it hard to continue the relationship.
“I wanted to want to leave him. I wanted him to get better,” she said, her voice crackling with emotion. “And he expressed to me so many times when he was in that period of getting clean and sober, ‘You saved my life. Baby girl, you saved my life.’ Everyone else is saying that to me, and I believed it.’”
In May 2013, Heard alleges that while on a vacation with Depp in a trailer in the desert, he did a “cavity search” on her while looking for his cocaine. She describes other instances of alleged abuse, including the time Depp allegedly first hit her.
After a brief break, the court resumed on May 16. As Heard arrived at the courthouse, a crowd that had gathered appeared to jeer at her. Meanwhile, moments later when Depp arrived in a black SUV, the crowd cheered, shouting his name and growing even more boisterous when the actor waved at them.
Heard ended her testimony the following day.
If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence hotline for help at (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or go to www.thehotline.org for more. States often have domestic violence hotlines, as well.