The biggest takeaways from Amber Heard's witness testimonies in Johnny Depp defamation trial

·18 min read
The biggest takeaways from Amber Heard's witness testimonies in Johnny Depp defamation trial

Since Johnny Depp and Amber Heard stepped down from the witness stand, their respective lawyers have turned to a bevy of expert witnesses to testify on their behalves in the ongoing defamation trial.

In case you've missed the last five weeks: Depp is suing Heard for $50 million over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed she wrote chronicling her experiences as a domestic violence survivor. Though Heard never mentions Depp by name, his lawyers argue that references to their client (and Heard's previous abuse allegations following their 2017 divorce) are clear, claiming the essay damaged Depp's career and reputation. Heard filed a $100 million countersuit, claiming Depp and his legal team defamed her by calling her allegations false.

Marquee witnesses so far have included Heard's sister Whitney Henriquez and actress Ellen Barkin, who dated Depp in 1994 and starred with him in 1998's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Both testified on Heard's behalf last week. The court has also heard testimony from Heard's talent agent and former makeup artist.

Depp's team, meanwhile, will begin rebuttals on Tuesday. Depp's ex-girlfriend, the model Kate Moss, and Walter Hamada, president of DC Films at Warner Bros., are among the witnesses expected to testify on behalf of the actor.

Read on below for a rundown of some key moments from the depositions.

Johnny Depp, Amber Heard
Johnny Depp, Amber Heard

EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images; STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Johnny Depp; Amber Heard

Heard's sister says she witnessed Depp hitting Heard in the face 'repeatedly'

Henriquez echoed Heard's previous testimony that detailed the first time the actress says she hit Depp: While trying to diffuse an argument between the couple at their home, Henriquez stood at the top of the stairs while her sister and Depp screamed obscenities at each other. Depp ran up the stairs and hit Henriquez in the back, she testified, prompting Heard to scream, "Don't hit my f---ing sister" before striking him.

By the time Depp's security guard ran up to separate the two, "Johnny had already grabbed Amber by the hair with one hand and was whacking her repeatedly in the face with the other, as I was standing there," Henriquez testified. The next morning, Heard's closet had been trashed and her clothing racks thrown down the stairs, Henriquez testified. She noted that while Depp could be pleasant when sober, he became angry and abusive when under the influence of drugs and alcohol. "When he was drinking, he would get very angry," she testified. "He would say really nasty, unkind things, usually about Amber, sometimes about me."

Heard's former friends say they feared for her safety

In a tearful deposition, Pennington said she was "scared" for Heard's safety and that Depp would "do something worse than he intended" to Heard. "In the beginning, I wasn't worried," she said. "Towards the end when the physical abuse was more evident, I was worried." Depp "could be very unpredictable," she testified, and Heard "didn't have a lot of self-preservation." She continued: "I was scared for Amber. I was sad for her and I was also sad for Johnny as he was my friend too. I really wanted them to be able to get it together."

Depp often referred to himself as "the monster" during these volatile moments, Pennington testified. "We called it the monster... me, Johnny, Amber, anyone else in the inner circle that was privy to the private things that would happen," she said. Similarly, Marz testified that she witnessed Heard with a "swollen face" after an altercation in 2016, wherein Depp was "combative" and "angry."

Amber Heard in court
Amber Heard in court

STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images Amber Heard in court

Heard's makeup artist concealed visible injuries before her James Corden appearance

Depp's team grilled Heard this week about the lack of visible injuries during her appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden in 2016, following an altercation where Depp allegedly punched her, dragged her by the hair, and split her lip. Heard cited wearing heavy makeup to cover the injuries. Inglessis corroborated those claims in pre-recorded deposition, testifying that she observed "discoloration under both eyes and bridge of the nose and what I would call a split lip or gash." She also noted a missing chunk of hair on Heard.

Of the makeup routine, Inglessis said, "We covered the discoloration or bruises with a slightly heavier concealer — one that had more of a peach undertone that I would normally not use on Amber, but peach does cancel blue so I did that under the eyes. Though Amber always has a red lip — it's one of her signature looks — I remember clearly talking [about how] we had no other option that night than to use a really red lipstick to make sure we could cover up the injuries on the lip." An at-times emotional Inglessis also testified about Heard's "rollercoaster" mood during their makeup session, noting Heard was "angry," "sad," and a "little erratic."

Heard's acting coach observed changes in her behavior amid alleged abuse

The star previously testified that Depp tried to prevent her from working as an actress, citing paranoia over suspected affairs with costars. Sexton, her acting coach, observed Heard's auditions were "decreasing" during her relationship with Depp, noting there were "stretches of time where she wasn't auditioning at all and working." She noted of the relationship, "Early on they were incredibly lovey-dovey and passionate and always together in a positive way." As the relationship progressed, Saxton "began building a cushion of an hour" around appointments with Heard since she began to spend a lot of time "sobbing in the beginning of sessions."

"I would say the last year they were together, 80, 90 percent of our sessions began with her crying," Saxton testified. "Ironically, she has a little difficulty crying acting-wise, which a lot of us do. It was a lot towards the end [of the relationship]." She added, "I would hear them fighting and she would come in and she would be a wreck." Saxton also observed other physical and lifestyle changes: "She became more and more of a hermit, only leaving the house when she had to. Johnny yelled at her for going out." Saxton said Heard often lost weight when under stress. "She would drop weight and looked skeletal. Right before their wedding, [she] lost [a] significant amount of weight."

Depp's former agent says he became 'difficult to work with'

Depp's former talent against Tracey Jacobs testified in pre-recorded deposition about helping Depp become "the biggest star in the world," only for him to squander his success with "unprofessional behavior." In 2016, Jacobs testified, Depp "terminated essentially everyone in his life and I was along for the ride." Towards the end of their professional relationship, Depp was "showing up late to set essentially in every movie" and word had gotten around that "he was difficult to work with."

Jacobs said she had to travel to Australia twice while Depp filmed Pirates of the Caribbean 5 to discuss him being late to set or not showing up at all. In contrast to previous testimony from Depp's current talent manager Jack Whigham, Jacobs testified that no one at Disney committed to hiring Depp for Pirates 6 in conversations with her. Whigman previously said he closed a deal for Depp to earn $22.5 million to reprise his role. Jacobs attributed Depp's unprofessionalism to his alcohol and drug use. Depp romanticized drug culture, Jacobs testified, and his anger "worsened over time."

Depp's former business manager and friend say he faced financial difficulties

As previously predicted by legal experts, including Dr. Jill Huntley Taylor, a legal analyst and the CEO of a trial strategy and jury consulting firm for civil and criminal cases in an interview with EW, Heard's team presented Depp's "out of control" lifestyle to jurors. Depp's former business manager Joel Mandel and producer Bruce Witkin testified that the Pirates actor had financial difficulties due to excess spending. By 2015, Mandel was "extremely concerned and regularly expressing that concern" to Depp about his finances, which angered the actor. Witkin testified that Depp told him he needed to "slow down" his spending "and do more movies."

In 2017, Depp sued his former management company, The Management Group (TMG), for mismanaging his funds and making nearly $10 million in unauthorized loans. TMG alleged the loans were approved by Depp and went to his close associates. Depp settled the lawsuit in 2018.  Witkin was deposed in that trial and spoke about Depp's drug and alcohol use. Witkin testified that Depp was "not happy" with his testimony and told him he "stabbed him in the back and badmouthed him." Witkin fielded more inquiries about Depp's drug use and "jealous streak," claiming Depp would "work himself up" when Heard filmed projects with male costars.

Depp's attorney says… not a lot, on the grounds of attorney-client privilege

Adam Waldman, Depp's attorney who called Heard's abuse allegations a "hoax," testified about his remarks to the press in a pre-recorded deposition, but not much was shared on the grounds of attorney-client privilege. Heard's team presented snippets from his 2020 exclusive with Daily Mail, which featured audio of Heard admitting to striking Depp and telling him she couldn't promise that she "won't get physical again."

Waldman also declined to answer questions about whether Depp was aware he would make comments to the press, whether he made the comments on Depp's behalf, and whether he had prior discussions with Depp about the statements. Waldman did testify that he provided audio recordings to the Daily Mail, and that Depp was present with him when he attended a meeting with the outlet. Waldman also testified that "to some extent, I have seen some evidence" that points to Heard's abuse allegations being false.

A social media forensic expert analyzes discrepancies in negative online content about Heard and Depp

Ron Schnell, a social media forensic expert and director of Berkeley Research Group, quantified negative hashtags and tweets about both actors, testifying that "It's not that big [of] a stretch" to presume that Waldman's "hoax" and "fraud" statements about Heard correlated to posts that may have damaged Heard's reputation. Schnell analyzed posts between 2020 and 2022, noting spikes in particular hashtags during the time Waldman spoke to Daily Mail and Depp's libel lawsuit against The Sun. One large spike occurred in February 2020, during the time of the Daily Mail exclusive, he testified.

Per a chart shared in court, the most popular hashtag was #JusticeForJohnnyDepp and #AmberHeardisAnAbuser. Other spikes include #WeJustDontLikeYouAmber and #AmberTurd, a reference to Depp's allegations that she left human feces on his side of the bed after an argument. (Heard denied the allegations in her own testimony this week, citing the irregular bowels of their dog.) During cross-examination, Depp's team pressed Schnell, arguing that many of these hashtags, including #JusticeForJohnnyDepp, predated Waldman's "hoax" comments.

"How do you know it had anything to do with Waldman's statements?" Depp's attorney asked. "It's not that big [of] a stretch that it's associated with Waldman," Schnell said, noting he could only show the mathematical correlation. When Depp's attorney proposed that #JusticeForJohnnyDepp "itself is not negative towards Ms. Heard," Schnell said, "I'm not opining on the hashtags itself. I'm talking about the tweets that contain the hashtag."

Barkin testifies about Depp's 'controlling' and 'jealous' behavior

Barkin, who briefly dated Depp in 1994 and starred with him in the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, testified about his "controlling" and "jealous" behavior in pre-recorded deposition. She detailed their friendship ("We just developed a friendship over time that lasted maybe 10 years [or] a little less," she said) and sexual relationship after she moved from New York to Los Angeles. During their time together, Barkin was "always aware" that Depp drank excessively, she testified. "He was drunk a lot of the time."

When asked if there was ever a time Depp was "out of control," she cited the time he allegedly threw a wine bottle across a hotel room during an argument with friends. She said that bottle was hurled in her direction but did not hit her or anyone else. Barkin testified it "was very common" for Depp to be "controlling" and "jealous," allegations also put forth by Heard on the stand. "He's just a jealous man [and] controlling, [and would ask] 'Where are you going? Who are you going with? What did you do last night?" she testified, noting Depp once got "very angry" after discovering a scratch on her back. He became convinced that Barkin was sleeping with someone else.

Barkin previously testified about Depp's substance use and anger in his libel lawsuit against The Sun in 2020.

A production executive at Disney and Heard's talent agent testify about the former couple's careers

Depp previously testified that Heard's op-ed hindered his acting career and led to his removal from Pirates of the Caribbean 6. Tina Newman, a production executive at Disney, the studio behind the Pirates franchise, testified that she had no knowledge of Disney reviewing documents and having conversations about Heard's op-ed. She testified there were no discussions about the op-ed or its impact on Depp's role in Pirates. "I don't know one way or the other if he was approached [about] Pirates 6," Newman said. "I just know it's a project that's possibly in development by the studio."

Jessica Kovacevic, Heard's current talent agent, testified about her client's career before and after her split from Depp, saying that her role as Mera in Aquaman 2 was impacted. She testified that the first film was a big success, and Heard's role tested well among audiences, but rumors had swirled of recasting when it came to the sequel. Kovacevic testified that Warner Bros. cited Heard's lack of chemistry with Momoa as a reason for possibly replacing her but conceded that the bad press played a part. While the studio never cited the bad publicity to her knowledge, Kovacevic surmised: "They don't want to hire someone who has bad press... No one wants that association." Given the success of the first Aquaman, Kovacevic said she believes Heard should have landed more endorsements and jobs afterward than she did.

While Heard remained in the sequel, her role was "pared-down," Heard previously testified, citing Depp's alleged "smear campaign" against her. "I was given a script and then given new versions of the script that had taken away scenes that had action in it, that depicted my character and another character, without giving any spoiler aways, two characters fighting with one another, and they basically took a bunch out of my role," Heard testified Monday. "They just removed a bunch out." Her $2 million contract remained intact, but she reportedly appears in the film for just 10 minutes.

An orthopedic surgeon casts doubt over Depp's allegation that Heard severed the tip of his finger

The topic of Depp's severed fingertip, cut off in Australia in 2015, was again revisited. The actor has accused Heard of causing the injury after allegedly slamming a liquor bottle on his middle finger. Heard denied the allegations in her testimony. Her defense then called on Richard Moore, an orthopedic surgeon, who testified that Depp's allegations are "not consistent with what we see in the described injury pattern or in the clinical photographs." Moore, who said he's operated on "hundreds if not more" of finger injuries like Depp's, ruled out the actor's account: "Looking at the images, there's really no significant injury of the dorsum of the finger, and to create the type of injury with that type of a crush injury, we would anticipate both injury to the fingernail and other parts of the finger," he testified.

Depp's defense then grilled Moore on previous deposition where he said that he could not definitively rule out what caused the finger injury. Heard's defense then pushed back against Depp's team, accusing the actor's lawyer of reading incomplete answers.

A psychiatrist testifies that Depp has behaviors consistent with a 'perpetrator of intimate partner violence'

David Spiegel, a psychiatrist who specializes in addiction and intimate partner violence, testified that Depp "has behaviors that are consistent with someone who has substance abuse behavior as well as someone who is a perpetrator of intimate partner violence." Citing his awareness of Depp using an earpiece to remember lines on movie sets, Spiegel testified that the actor's heavy alcohol and cocaine use has affected his memory and attention span.

When asked to recount signs of intimate partner violence, he said, "One, having someone in the relationship who is jealous or suspicious. Two, having someone who has a higher than average acceptance of violence ideations. Three, someone who has rapid and extreme mood shifts. Four, someone who has limited self-control."

Things got heated during cross-examination when Depp's team noted Spiegel did not see Depp as a patient, insinuating that his conclusions are therefore unethical. Spiegel pushed back, claiming his opinions are not an "armchair diagnosis" and within Goldwater Rule guidelines, an ethics principle that says physicians shouldn't voice professional opinions in the media about the mental health of individuals they have not personally examined and without consent or legal authority. "If you want the jury to believe that expert witnesses are unethical, then I guess that's for them to decide," Spiegel said.

An entertainment industry consultant testifies that Depp's alleged smear campaign caused Heard to lose job opportunities

Amber Heard and Jason Momoa in 'Aquaman'
Amber Heard and Jason Momoa in 'Aquaman'

Warner Bros. Pictures Amber Heard and Jason Momoa in 'Aquaman'

Kathryn Arnold, an entertainment industry consultant for the defense, testified that Heard's career opportunities in Hollywood faltered after Depp's attorney Adam Waldman called her abuse allegations a "hoax." Arnold testified that Heard should have had the same career trajectory as stars like Ana de Armas, Zendaya, and Gal Gadot were it not for Depp's alleged "smear campaign" (a term previously used by Heard). She estimated that the Aquaman star lost $50 million in revenue since the statements.

"When you look at the time frame of when the Waldman statements came out, and you look at what was going on with Ms. Heard's career prior to the statement and what happened after the statement, it's very clear to make that correlation," she said, referring to Waldman's 2020 interview with Daily Mail. "It would have been very reasonable to believe her career would have been on an upward trajectory of those other actors if not for the hoax allegations," Arnold continued. Instead, she told the court that Heard's "world has been silent in terms of opportunities."

During cross-examination, Depp's team pushed back on the assessment, maintaining that Heard's trajectory was not similar to those actors, who, they argued, starred in blockbuster franchises or had higher-profile careers than Heard at that point. While Arnold called Heard's 2018 Aquaman role a "star-is-born moment," her role as Mera was a supporting role and love interest to Momoa's title superhero. Heard previously testified that she had to "fight really hard" to star in 2017's Justice League (which introduced her character), 2018's Aquaman, and the upcoming Aquaman 2.

Heard said she ended up appearing in a "very pared-down version" of the original story planned for her character in Aquaman 2. "I was given a script and then given new versions of the script that had taken away scenes that had action in it, that depicted my character and another character, without giving any spoiler aways, two characters fighting with one another, and they basically took a bunch out of my role," Heard testified. "They just removed a bunch out."

Rebuttal witnesses will take the stand on behalf of Depp on Tuesday and Wednesday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday, May 27.

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