Cross-examination of Johnny Depp continues in defamation lawsuit
The actor acknowledged that he did not mention Heard in such correspondence but, in at least one instance, presented the omission as a way to cut to the chase. The jury saw photos of mirrors and a lampshade that displayed words written on them with blood from Depp’s severed finger, which he also mixed with paint; a mirror caption read “With Billy Bob and Easy Amber,” a reference to actor Billy Bob Thornton, whom Heard had just starred in a film. Depp told the court he was in shock from his injury and was having a “nervous breakdown” when he started writing the words.
Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 35, for $50 million after her op-ed was published in The Washington Post in 2018. Although she didn’t name him, Depp said the reference to being a victim of domestic violence clearly concerned him, because Heard filed for divorce and a restraining order two years prior. (Heard sued Depp for $100 million for defamation after his attorney called the allegations a hoax.) Depp, who said the op-ed irreparably ruined her career and reputation, is suing her in the county of Fairfax because the Post’s print shop and online servers are Virginia.
Rottenborn also pushed back on Depp’s description of a December 2015 incident in which Heard alleged he head-butted him; Depp vehemently denied this in his previous testimony, saying she initiated a physical altercation and any contact took place while he was trying to restrain her. Rottenborn released an audio recording in which Heard said he headbutted her. Depp replied, “I headbutted you in the forehead con, it doesn’t break your nose.”
“I said those words, but it was using the words Ms Heard used. But there was no intentional headbutt,” Depp replied. “If you want to have a peaceful conversation with Mrs. Heard, you may need to calm down a bit.”
Depp admitted to texting Heard’s father around the same time, writing, he “went too far in our fight. I cannot and will not excuse my part in these dramas. But I can confidently promise you that they will never happen again. On the stand, Depp said he didn’t say anything about a physical fight. “Fights can be arguments,” he said.
Throughout the day, Rottenborn shed light on Depp’s drug and alcohol use, which the attorney says impacted Depp’s career, not Heard’s allegations. The attorney asked a question that may never have been asked in a courtroom before: “Paul Bettany is a good friend you used drugs with, isn’t he?”
“That’s a weird question,” Depp replied, before saying yes, the actor is a good friend and they’ve used drugs together, including cocaine and alcohol. Rottenborn also read aloud several impassioned and graphic text messages that Depp sent to Bettany, as well as one in which he told Bettany that he had “beaten [alcohol] and displayed ugly colors in Amber on a recent trip. I am a crazy person. Depp later confirmed that he also did drugs with rock singer Marilyn Manson.
He asked about Depp’s earlier testimony that he found drugs and alcohol early in his life and used those substances as a “numbing agent”. Depp said it was more like he was numbing his demons and the “residual pain I’ve carried since youth,” referring to the experiences with his abusive mother he detailed on Wednesday.
Rottenborn referred to a 2013 text Depp sent to his assistant that referred to his “Peruvian period,” which Depp confirmed was referring to cocaine; a text message the following year to a stranger who talked about taking ecstasy; and a message Depp sent Bettany saying he needed to “stop the booze thing” and said he had been drinking all night before a 2014 flight with Heard from Boston (where he was filming “Black Mass “) back in Los Angeles.
The lawyer asked if Depp remembered Heard’s concerns about his substance use and referred to the 2020 UK libel case Depp lost to the Sun, who called him a ‘wife beater’ in a title. Rottenborn asked if Depp remembered testifying that he had abused alcohol at some point, although Depp has disputed that now, saying he didn’t think he drank a lot. Later, Rottenborn posted a text Depp had sent his sister in 2013 saying he was “a crazy person…after drinking too much”.
Rottenborn played a recording in which Heard told Depp she was worried he was choking on his own vomit while he slept. Rottenborn then showed a picture of Depp “passed out” (the actor called the expression “obscene”, saying he was just asleep) with ice cream all over him. Depp said Heard gave her the ice cream knowing what was coming and slammed her for taking the picture in the first place, saying it was after 17 hours of filming and he was battling an addiction to opiates at the time.
After questioning whether Depp considers himself a “gentleman from the South” (Depp said he believes he lives up to those standards and certainly tries), Rottenborn referred to several vulgar text messages Depp has sent over the years. about Heard, including one in Bettany in 2013 that said “Let’s burn Amber!!!” followed by increasingly violent and vulgar images and language.
Rottenborn went on to show more profane texts Depp sent about Heard (including one referred to earlier in the lawsuit, saying he hoped his “rotten corpse would decompose” in the “trunk of a Honda Civic “) and the messages he sent her, including one calling her an explicit four-letter word.
The jury also saw a video Heard had recorded showing a clearly angry Depp slamming kitchen cabinets and pouring a tall glass of red wine. “Yes, I assaulted a few cabinets. But I didn’t touch Ms. Heard,” Depp said. When Rottenborn wondered if that was how a Southern gentleman would behave, Depp replied, “I don’t know anything else, but I’ve had experiences in my life where you walk away sometimes total control of his emotions.”
There was a somewhat tense back-and-forth over the aforementioned flight from Boston to Los Angeles, which came up several times during the trial. Depp confirmed that before the flight he had a “heated” discussion with Heard, as he suspected she was having an affair with her co-star James Franco. Rottenborn again addressed the text to Bettany, where Depp said he had been drinking all night and had “powder” (i.e. cocaine) before the flight.
Rottenborn has repeatedly asked if Depp ‘knocked down’ drunk during the flight – he played audio of Depp moaning, sounding like ‘an animal in pain’ – as he testified at the UK trial, although that Depp now disagrees with that description. He added that he drank a glass of champagne and took a double dose of opiates at the time, and he said that was not the same as being passed out; Rottenborn replied that it was also different from what he told Bettany.
This led to a discussion of Depp’s painful detox process on his private Caribbean island in August 2014. Although Depp testified earlier that Heard had hampered his detox – enough that he had to return to Los Angeles and asking for alone time – Rottenborn read texts where Depp gushed to Heard’s mother that “It was only Amber and Amber who got me through this.”
Depp’s cross-examination will resume Monday morning.