Expert Witness Casts Doubt on Johnny Depp’s Story About That Severed Finger

·4 min read
Handout/Exhibit
Handout/Exhibit

Warning: This article contains graphic images.

Amber Heard’s legal team opened the seventh week of the civil defamation trial between her and ex-husband Johnny Depp on Monday with a pair of expert witnesses, including a trauma surgeon who expressed skepticism of Depp’s account of how he lost his fingertip in 2015.

Richard Moore, an orthopedic trauma surgeon from North Carolina specializing in hand and wrist injuries, said that photographs and medical X-rays he reviewed were “not consistent” with Depp’s claim to enduring brutal domestic violence by Heard.

As jurors looked at a photograph of Depp’s bloodied and sheared-off fingertip, with the fingernail jutting up, Moore said the fingernail being intact—plus the absence of other cuts and injuries to Depp—contradicted the actor’s allegation that a bottle flung by Heard shattered and sliced the digit.

“You would anticipate in the setting of a glass explosion like that, where there’s multiple fragments and the tip of the finger cut off—you would anticipate that there’ll be other lacerations,” Moore said. The doctor later acknowledged that he was paid a fee—$5,000—for his testimony, as expert witnesses often are.

Depp’s lawsuit alleges that Heard “devastated” his career after she wrote a 2018 Washington Post op-ed that did not name Depp but described herself as a domestic violence survivor—two years after she filed a temporary restraining order against the actor.

The Bombshell Testimony Looming Over Johnny Depp’s Case

Heard has counter-sued Depp, claiming that he and his legal team launched a “smear campaign” against her after her op-ed—including claims from one former lawyer that called her domestic violence allegations “a hoax.”

Depp lawyer Camille Vasquez, on cross examination, zeroed in on discrepancies between Moore’s testimony and an earlier deposition he gave describing the position of the hand on a table at the time of the injury. Moore acknowledged the difference but said it “does not substantially change my opinion.”

Moore was also confronted with what he said in the earlier deposition—that it was difficult to rule out a variety of potential causes, like slamming “it in the car door.” Moore stood his ground, telling jurors on Monday, “I can’t rule out that a vodka bottle caused the injury, but I can rule out that it was caused by the manner described in his testimony,” he said.

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Handout/Exhibit

Depp previously testified that the injury happened during an argument about a prenuptial agreement in which Heard accused him of “trying to trick her into essentially getting nothing if something were to happen.” Depp then claims a “possessed” Heard walked up to him and “reached and grabbed the bottle of vodka and then just kind of stood back and hurled it at me” before grabbing another bottle that “made contact” with him.

"I didn’t feel the pain at first—what I felt was heat and something dripping down my hand. I looked down and realized that the tip of my finger had been severed,” Depp said. “I was looking directly at my bones sticking out and the meaty portion...blood was pouring out.”

Jurors, however, were also shown a message and heard audio that suggests that the actor may have actually chopped off his own finger. “I have chopped off my left middle finger as a reminder that I should never cut my finger off again!!” Depp wrote in an email to his doctor. In a separate audio recording, Depp can be heard apparently saying, “I chopped off my finger.”

Over numerous objections from Depp’s lawyers, David Spiegel, a Virginia psychiatrist who treats domestic-violence perpetrators and people dealing with substance misuse but who has not examined Depp, said “the actor “has behaviors that are consistent with both.” He also suggested the actor seemed to have the capacity to mask his behavior with a high tolerance for drugs and alcohol, and a “calm, charming” facade.

A Depp lawyer, Wayne Dennison, proceeded to spend a testy hour cross-examining Spiegel, who has never examined Depp personally. (The court twice denied requests by Heard’s legal team to order an in-person examination of Depp by the shrink.)

Specifically, Dennison questioned Spiegel’s opinion that Depp using an earpiece to have lines fed to him during filming was a sign of cognitive decline.

“Do you know whether Marlon Brando used an earpiece?” Dennison asked.

“Isn’t he dead?” Spiegel replied.

“Yeah.”

“So the answer is no, he does not use one now,” Spiegel retorted, drawing a few chuckles from the courtroom and a look of disbelief from Depp, who put his face in his hands.

The doctor eventually retreated from his assertion about the significance of the earpiece, acknowledging, “I know nothing about acting.”

Dennison and Spiegel also debated whether it was even ethical for Spiegel to even offer his professional opinion on Depp. Dennison brought up the so-called “Goldwater Rule,” which the American Psychiatric Association adopted, advising against ad-hoc diagnoses from afar after several psychiatrists publicly questioned Barry Goldwater’s mental health during the 1964 campaign for president.

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