Deep Dive into Deep vs. Heard Defamation Trial


Photo by Creative Commons

Depp and Heard on the red carpet when they were a couple.

Two top list actors, one high profile, media-crazed trial, and possibly $100 million on the line. Here are the ins and outs of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial. 

The trial centers around Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Heard in 2019 for a Washington Post Op-Ed published the year before that implied she was a victim of domestic abuse. Accusations quickly followed after the publication against her now ex-husband, Depp. The trial began on April 12, 2022, in Fairfax, Virginia and is set to last six weeks. 

Heard’s Washington Post Op-Ed never directly accuses Depp of abuse, though it heavily implies such violence. However, she did acknowledge the rumors in the article: “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse.” Within the article, she also describes how she “felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out” within the media as she “was getting death threats.” 

The Washington Post article came out in the middle of the #MeToo Movement. Some fear that if Heard is found guilty that it could discourage current or past victims of intimate partner violence from speaking out. Overall, they fear it might derail some of the progress of the #MeToo Movement. Yet, others argue that the high-profile of the case will galvanize conversation about this type of abuse further. 

In the wake of these domestic abuse allegations, Johnny Depp was removed from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and the Fantastic Beast series. Numerous movies that he has starred in have been removed from streaming services, and overall, his career has been heavily impacted. As a result of the trial, Heard has now felt similar repercussions as there are now petitions to remove her from the Aquaman series. 

Within the trial, some key evidence presented includes: recounts of Heard severing part of Depp’s middle finger with a broken vodka bottle in a fight in Australia, a cavity search of Heard by Depp as he  accused her of hiding his cocaine in Joshua Tree Park, and a video taken by Heard of Depp trashing their kitchen and pouring a ‘mega pint’ of wine. 

In the trial, Depp’s older sister Christi Dembroksi recounted their childhood abuse, and Depp describes how “My mother was quite unpredictable. She had the ability to be as cruel as anyone can be with all of us.” When asked why he stayed if he was being abused by Heard, he answered “because my father did.” 

In terms of witnesses for the case, Depp has brought the following to the stand: his Bahama Island estate manager Tara Roberts who recounted when Amber told him Depp was “a washed up actor” who was “going to die a fat, lonely old man” after she had hit Depp with a can; and forensic phycologist Shannon Curry, who was hired by Depp’s legal team to conduct an evaluation of Heard, concluded that she had borderline personality disorder and histrionic disorder. 

As for Heard’s witnesses, the only one we have heard from so far was psychologist Dawn Huges, who testified that Heard had PTSD from partner abuse – indicating it was from Depp. It has been rumored that her exes, James Franco and Elon Musk, may also take the stand.

The trial has stirred a unique conversation around domestic abuse as an alleged male victim is sharing his story. There is heavy stigma around male victims of domestic abuse as such experiences contradict many traditional gender stereotypes. Men are seen as more aggressive by nature whereas women are more docile, and this stigma is best reflected in a quote from a recording released in the trial where Heard says: “Tell them, I, Johnny Depp, I’m a victim of domestic abuse … and see how many people believe or side with you.”