Johnny Depp, accused of spousal abuse, says ex-wife was the aggressor

By Julia Jacobs and Colin Moynihan

VIRGINIA – Actor Johnny Depp took the stand for the second day on Wednesday (20) to describe his turbulent marriage to actress Amber Heard, whom he has sued for defamation, accusing her of “demeaning name-calling” that often escalated into physical violence.

“It could begin with a slap, it could begin with a shove, it could begin with throwing a TV remote at my head, throwing a glass of wine in my face,” Depp told a jury at Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia.

Heard has accused Depp in court papers of repeatedly assaulting her throughout their relationship, from slapping and kicking to dragging her across the floor by her hair and grasping her throat, making her fearful that he would kill her.

But over the past few years of legal wrangling in the United States and Britain, Depp has maintained that Heard was the one who was violent toward him. In testimony on Tuesday (19), Depp denied ever striking Heard or any woman.

“She has a need for conflict, she has a need for violence,” he said of Heard. “It erupts out of nowhere.”

Heard denied in court papers that she had ever struck Depp except in self-defence or in defence of her sister.

Depp has sued Heard for defamation over an op-ed she wrote in 2018 in which she said she was a ​​“public figure representing domestic abuse”. The article did not mention Depp’s name, but he testified that the time-frame reference in the op-ed was clearly in reference to their marriage, which lasted less than two years.

The seven-person jury will also consider Heard’s countersuit, which asserts that Depp defamed her when his former lawyer made statements saying that her allegations of domestic abuse were a hoax.

During more than five hours of testimony on Wednesday, the jury heard snippets of recorded arguments between the couple. Those included audio of Depp confronting Heard about kicking a door into his head the previous night and Heard asking, “Why are you obsessing over the fact that I can’t remember it the way you remember it?”

During his testimony, Depp strove to present his side of several incidents that have surfaced as their problems in their relationship became public, including the time Depp’s middle finger was severed. The injury occurred in 2015 while the couple was in Australia for the filming of the fifth ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie.

Depp told the jury that, at the time, Heard was angry about a meeting she had with a lawyer about a potential postnuptial agreement and threw two vodka bottles at him, one of which missed while another shattered into his hand, causing his finger to bleed “like Vesuvius”. He testified that he then experienced a “nervous breakdown” and used his bloody finger to write on the walls messages that “represented lies that she told me”.

Heard, who is expected to take the stand later in the trial, has given a very different account of the incident in Australia, writing in court papers that Depp became violent with her during an argument about his drug use. She has said that at one point he grabbed her by the neck and collarbone and slammed her into a countertop, then hit her with the back of his hand and slammed a phone against a wall until it “smashed into smithereens,” injuring his finger.

Upon her return to Los Angeles, Heard wrote in court papers that “I had a busted lip, a swollen nose and cuts all over my body.”

In 2016, Heard was granted a temporary restraining order against Depp after telling a court in California that Depp had thrown a phone at her face at close range, bruising it. (Depp testified that he “flopped” the phone onto the couch and has asserted in court papers that Heard’s facial marks were of her own doing.)

Many of the accusations being lobbed back and forth in Virginia have already been aired in a court in London. After Depp sued The Sun newspaper there for a headline in which they referred to him as a “wife beater”, citing “overwhelming evidence” during their marriage, a British judge ruled against the actor.

In Fairfax County, Judge Penney S. Azcarate appeared to cut off an attempt by one of Heard’s lawyers to mention the British case earlier in the trial. After a sidebar with the judge, the lawyer moved onto a new line of questioning, indicating that there have been restrictions put on any reference to those proceedings.

Depp was set continue on the stand Thursday (21) when he is to be cross-examined by a lawyer for Heard.

Depp’s suit argues that his career has suffered because of Heard’s depiction of him. On Wednesday, Depp testified that as Heard’s abuse allegations “gained momentum around the world”,  calls stopped coming from agents and producers and he felt as though people started to look at him differently.

“No matter the outcome of this trial, I will carry that for the rest of my days,” he said.

-New York Times



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