Here's How the Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard Trial is Going

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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard appear outside the High Court in London on different days in July 2020. Depp is now suing Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed for 'The Washington Post' about being physically and sexually abused by a previous partner. (AP)

Johnny Depp is expected to take the stand in a Virginia court Tuesday afternoon to testify in his defamation case against his ex-wife, actor Amber Heard. Depp is suing Heard for more than $50 million, saying her claims of domestic abuse have harmed his career and reputation.

Heard, 35, has filed a countersuit against Depp, 58, seeking $100 million in damages and saying his legal team falsely accused her of fabricating claims against Depp.

The jury trial at a county courthouse in Fairfax, Va., just outside of Washington, D.C., has generated intense interest, prompting Circuit Court Judge Penney Azcarate to issue detailed orders for journalists and spectators — including a ban on camping out on the grounds of the judicial complex.

Aside from the formerly married movie stars, the case could potentially draw appearances from actors Paul Bettany and James Franco, as well as Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

What Depp is asking for

Depp is suing Heard for three counts of defamation, citing her op-ed that was published on The Washington Post website and in its print newspaper, as well as Heard's posting a link to the piece via her Twitter account.


Depp is seeking at least $50 million in compensatory damages and a punitive award of at least $350,000, along with attorneys' fees and court costs.

So far, witnesses have testified about alcohol and drug use by Depp and Heard, and they've been questioned about the fights between the former couple. Depp's sister, Christi Dembrowski, and a longtime friend, Isaac Baruch, were among the first to testify on Depp's behalf.

In a video deposition played in court, couple's therapist Laurel Anderson, who worked with Heard and Depp before their relationship ended, described the pair as inflicting "mutual abuse" on each another, according to the Associated Press.

The Virginia case centers on Heard's 2018 essay about abuse

In December 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post voicing her support for the Violence Against Women Act. In it, she drew on her own experiences as a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse.

"Like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age," Heard wrote. "But I kept quiet—I did not expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn't see myself as a victim."

The essay didn't directly refer to Depp by name, but his 2019 court complaint states, "the op-ed plainly was about Ms. Heard's purported victimization after she publicly accused her former husband, Johnny Depp, of domestic abuse in 2016, when she appeared in court with an apparently battered face and obtained a temporary restraining order against Mr. Depp."

Heard and Depp married in February 2015. Heard filed for divorce in May 2016 and days later obtained a temporary restraining order accusing Depp of hitting her during a fight in their Los Angeles apartment. Depp denied he abused her, and police said they found no evidence of a crime.

When the two settled their divorce in 2017, the agreement reportedly included a stipulation in which they agreed not to discuss their relationship in public.

Depp claims Heard's allegations were a 'hoax' to boost her career

Depp's filing against Heard accuses her of using domestic abuse allegations to boost her career and public standing. Heard's claims made her a "darling of the #MeToo movement" who gained prestigious positions at the United Nations Human Rights Office and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as a deal with L'Oreal, the complaint states.

Depp also accuses Heard of using her allegations to promote her big-budget film Aquaman, which was released days after the Post essay was published. It went on to make more than $1 billion globally, the complaint notes.

In contrast, Depp says, his own career was severely damaged by the essay. Days after Heard's op-ed was published, his complaint says, Disney announced it would remove Depp "from his leading role as Captain Jack Sparrow—a role that he created—in the multi-billion-dollar-earning Pirates of the Caribbean franchise."

Depp accused Heard of making false claims against him, motivated by malice. His complaint also says Heard is not a victim of abuse, but a perpetrator, accusing her of physically abusing him during their relationship.

The court filing also cites Heard's 2009 arrest for domestic violence, which did not result in charges being pursued. Her partner in that relationship, Tasya van Ree, has defended Heard, saying her actions were "misinterpreted and over-sensationalized."

Depp previously sued a British paper for calling him a 'wife beater'

Depp sued British tabloid The Sun in a U.K. court, after it called him a "wife beater" in a 2018 article.

In late 2020, High Court Justice Andrew Nicol ruled that the newspaper had proven its claims about Depp were "substantially true." Nicol found that a dozen allegations of assault by Depp met legal standards, including several instances where Heard feared for her life.

Depp requested permission to file an appeal of Nicol's ruling and seek a new trial, but two court of appeals judges quashed that, saying the earlier proceeding had been fair and comprehensive. The judges said Depp's appeal had "no real prospect of success" and shouldn't be heard.

Depp's lawyers then focused on the U.S. proceeding against Heard, promising that it would reveal details that weren't part of the U.K. case.

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