Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are set to face off against one another in a Virginia court once again on Monday, after a weeklong break in their high-profile defamation trial.
Depp, 58, filed a $50 million lawsuit against Heard, 36, after she wrote in a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post that she was a domestic abuse survivor.
While Heard didn’t name Depp in the article, his lawyers have argued that it was clear she was referring to him. Heard is countersuing for $100 million for nuisance.
The fourth week of the trial concluded on May 5, after Heard’s two days of testimony, in which she emotionally alleged that she had been beaten and sexually assaulted by Depp during their ill-fated relationship, which ended in 2016.
For his part, Depp had earlier testified that he, too, had been physically abused by his Rum Diary co-star Heard, who he accused of throwing a large bottle of vodka at him, resulting in injuries that included the severing of part of his fingertip.
Depp and Heard have each denied the other’s allegations of domestic abuse.
This is the second time the former couple has battled it out in court since divorcing. The first came after Depp lost a 2020 libel case against British tabloid The Sun, which had labeled the actor a “wife-beater” in reference to Heard’s allegations of domestic abuse.
Heard accused Depp of domestic abuse during their divorce proceedings in 2016. The stars, who wed in 2015, had their union officially dissolved in January 2017, months after Heard filed for divorce from Depp.
While Depp had repeatedly denied ever having been violent to Heard during the three-week trial in London, the overseeing judge found that the U.K. publication’s claims that the actor was abusive to Heard were “substantially true.”
With the current trial paused for a week due to a previously scheduled engagement for Judge Penney Azcarate, jurors and the public have had several days to sit with the explosive claims made by Heard while on the stand.
The time away from the court has also afforded Depp’s team of attorneys extra time to deliver what is anticipated to be a thorough cross-examination of Heard on their return to Virginia’s Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse.
Ahead of the resumption of the trial next week, Newsweek spoke to legal experts, who have shared some of the questions they predict will be asked of Heard.
California First Amendment attorney Jeff Lewis told Newsweek that one of the points Depp’s attorneys may probe is Heard’s recent claims of sexual violence.
“Heard will be asked some very hard questions such as why, prior to this trial, had the sexual assault allegations never been made before,” Lewis said.
“She testified under oath before in deposition and trial (in England) and she signed a statement under penalty of perjury to get a restraining order in 2016, why wouldn’t the sexual violence have been disclosed by her prior to this trial?” he continued.
“The obligation to testify under penalty of perjury includes the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If it’s true that there was sexual violence then her prior under oath statements were simply not true,” added Lewis.
Heard memorably detailed an incident between her and Depp on a plane from Boston where they got into an argument, and he allegedly kicked her in the back.
The Aquaman star tearfully told how this was “the first time that anything like that had happened in front of somebody.”
However, said Lewis: “If Heard was struck by Depp on a private plane flight in front of witnesses, why has not one witness come forward? Expect Depp’s team to highlight any changes in Heard’s allegations over time. Every deviation in details will be exploited to build a picture that Heard has lied about Depp.”
During opening statements last month, Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, sparked a debate when she held up a makeup palette and said that it was what the actress had used to cover bruises allegedly sustained at the hands of Depp.
“This is what Amber carried in her purse for the entire relationship with Johnny Depp,” Bredehoft told the jury. “She’s an actor. Do you honestly think she would have left her apartment ever without makeup? Do you think that she ever would have wanted other people to see her bruises and her cuts? This is what she used.
“She became very adept at it, and you’re going to hear the testimony from Amber about how she had to mix the different colors for the different days of the bruises, as they developed in the different coloring, and how she would use these to touch those up to be able to cover those. She also used concealer foundation.”
Lewis told Newsweek that Heard will likely be asked about these claims during her cross-examination, saying: “If she cannot answer these questions convincingly, the sympathies will sway in Depp’s favor.”
Heard Taunting Depp
In a secretly-recorded audio clip of one particular conversation with Depp, Heard was heard telling the actor: “Tell people it was a fair fight and see what the jury and the judge thinks, tell the world, Johnny.” The clip was played by Depp’s defense in the ongoing trial.
Heard continued: “Tell them, I Johnny Depp, I am a victim too of domestic violence. You know, it’s a fair fight and see how many people believe or side with you.”
The audio has been used against Heard several times, but she went on to suggest that she did not make those arguments publicly to protect Depp.
“I am not trying to attack you here. I’m just trying to point out the fact of why I said call 911. Because you had your hands on me after you threw a phone in my face. And it’s gotten crazy in the past and I truly thought I need to stop this madness before I get hurt,” said Heard.
Immediately, Depp counters with a seemingly exasperated: “Oh my God.”
Lewis told Newsweek of the recording: “Expect that audio to be played during closing arguments and referenced.”
During the second day of Heard’s testimony, she mentioned a rumor that Depp once pushed supermodel Kate Moss down a flight of stairs when they were dating.
Heard told the courtroom that Depp once went to hit her sister Whitney who was standing at the top of a staircase during an alleged altercation in their home in 2015.
“She threw herself in the line of fire,” Heard said of her sister. “She was trying to get Johnny to stop. Her back was to the staircase, and Johnny swings at her… I don’t hesitate and wait; I instantly think of Kate Moss and stairs.”
Footage shared by the Law and Order network showed Depp’s attorney Ben Chew appearing to celebrate when Heard mentioned Moss and the stair rumor an all but certain indication that the subject will be brought up in cross-examination.
“Will Depp be allowed to call Moss as a witness or otherwise impeach Heard’s testimony implying that Depp abused Moss?” Lewis asked. “Stay tuned.”
Admission of Violence
Family law attorney Sabrina Shaheen Cronin, founder and managing partner of The Cronin Law Firm, told Newsweek that recordings played in court, in which Heard could be heard admitting to having struck Depp, will likely be brought up.
“Depp’s counsel will ask leading questions to highlight Heard’s contradictory stories that she has told the media and has stated during this trial thus far,” said Cronin.
“To downplay the abusive behavior that Heard alleges Depp did, Depp’s counsel will impeach her credibility by questions such as, ‘Isn’t it true that you admitted to being violent with Depp?’
“If she says no, Depp’s attorneys should play the audio recordings again and say, ‘You want the jury to believe this is not you? This is not your voice?'”
At the conclusion of her divorce proceedings with Depp, Heard signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), legally barring her from sharing details of their relationship.
However, Heard’s op-ed for The Washington Times may well have opened up a proverbial can of worms in that regard, said Cronin.
“Heard’s breach of the NDA is significant and that this breach caused significant economic damage to Depp,” Cronin explained.
“Her testimony was compelling, graphic, and brutal and I would expect that Heard’s counsel to focus on that during the closing,” added Lewis.
“Heard will also continue to attack the ‘causation’ element of defamation. “That is to say, Heard’s team will argue that the op-ed that is the basis of the lawsuit came out well after Depp’s career was already ruined. The op-ed, Heard will argue, did not actually cause any damages to Depp.”
As each side battles for legal vindication, Lewis pointed out that both stars also have much on the line when it comes to their image and lucrative careers.
“There are two trials going on right now the jury hearing these claims and the court of public opinion,” Lewis said. “In the court of public opinion, Ms. Heard is losing as evidenced by the fact that she fired her PR team.”