After a weeklong hiatus, the civil defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is set to resume on Monday—and will only bring new public scrutiny to the already highly publicized case centering on disturbing allegations of domestic violence and damaged careers.
The trial has galvanized legions of Depp fanatics to defend the Pirates of the Caribbean actor, praising his time on the stand while mocking every move and allegation Heard and her legal team has presented. To Depp stans, the actor has already won his $50 million defamation suit against his ex-wife, in which he alleges Heard “devastated” his career with a 2018 Washington Post op-ed. In the piece, which did not mention Depp’s name but came two years after she sought a restraining order against him, Heard identified herself as a domestic violence survivor.
Those same fanatics, who have amassed 10.6 billion views on TikTok under the hashtag #justiceforjohnnydepp, have also gleefully torn down Heard and her testimony, claiming her allegations of abuse are false. Heard also notably countersued Depp for $100 million, claiming defamation after at least one of his ex-attorneys suggested her account of a pattern of abuse was a “hoax.”
But while the internet seems to have picked a side, criminal defense attorney and former California judge Halim Dhanidina told The Daily Beast that evidence presented in court so far makes it seem that the trial is not as clear-cut as Depp’s fans have made it out to be. Especially since jurors are specifically asked to decide whether Heard acted with “actual malice” when she wrote the Post piece—meaning she knew the contents were false—or that the actress published the piece with “reckless disregard” for the truth.
“How something lands on the internet is not necessarily how it landed to the jury in the courtroom,” Dhanidina said.
Here are the top key claims made in the ongoing trial in Virginia’s Fairfax County Court—and how these claims are not as simple as social media clips and memes cooked up by Team Depp would have you believe.
THE SEVERED FINGER INCIDENT
Although both Depp and Heard have seemingly pointed to their 2015 stay in Australia as one of the more harrowing instances of abuse during their relationship, both celebrities have vastly different tales about what actually transpired.
The pair, who had moved to Australia temporarily while Depp filmed Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, both agree that a violent March 2015 argument occurred. But while Depp says that Heard hurled a bottle of vodka at him that severed off his fingertip, the actress says her ex-husband shoved her into a refrigerator and slammed her up against a wall between sexually violating her with the liquor bottle.
While on the stand, Depp claimed that the argument began after Heard became “irate” when he brought up the idea of obtaining a prenuptial agreement and argued that he was “trying to trick her into essentially getting nothing if something were to happen.” As the conversation quickly escalated into “madness,” he went behind the bar to grab a bottle of vodka to pour himself “two or three stiff shots of vodka,” noting that he had not consumed alcohol in a “long time.” 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.”
The actor, who called himself a domestic violence survivor in court, added the incident prompted what he believes is “a nervous breakdown” before he ultimately called his doctor and told him, “You might want to come over, I’ve cut my finger off here.”
After the injury, Depp testified that he dipped his finger in paint and wrote messages about Amber on walls and mirrors. Jurors were shown some of those messages Depp wrote on the walls, including vulgar messages about Heard like “Starring Billy Bob and Easy Amber”—communicating his jealousy toward Heard for having previously starred in London Fields with Billy Bob Thornton.
At the emergency room, however, he told a doctor he had smashed his finger in a door because he didn’t want Heard “in trouble.” But jurors were 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 saying, “I chopped off my finger.” Depp, however, insisted otherwise.
The conflicting statements align with previous comments from Heard, who alleged that Depp cut his finger during a three-day bender. According to Heard, the “belligerent” interaction turned violent when Depp slammed her “against the wall hard,” shoved her against a refrigerator, and even threw a ping-pong table at her. Noting that she only had “flashes” of memory from that night, Heard said eventually the violent event took a turn for the worse after the actor ripped off her nightgown before slamming her against a wall and countertops and eventually penetrating her vagina repeatedly with a liquor bottle.
“The next thing I remember, I was bent over backwards on the bar,” Heard said on the stand last week. “I thought he was punching me, I felt this pressure on my pubic bone… I remember looking around the room. I remember looking at all the broken bottles, broken glass, and I remember just not wanting to move because I didn’t know if it was broken or if the bottle he had inside of me was broken. I couldn’t feel it, I didn’t feel pain, I didn’t feel anything… I just remember thinking, ‘Please God, please I hope it’s not broken.’”
“I thought he was punching me, I felt this pressure on my pubic bone…I remember looking around the room. I remember looking at all the broken bottles, broken glass, and I remember just not wanting to move because I didn’t know if it was broken or if the bottle he had inside of me was broken.”
Heard told jurors that the next thing she remembered was throwing up in the bathroom and eventually taking two sleeping pills. She said she woke up the next morning to Marilyn Manson music blaring in the house—and the walls were smeared with mashed potato, dried blood, and paint. Depp was “missing a finger,” Heard said before adding on the stand that the actor had also ripped her nightgown into shreds and wrapped up pieces of raw steak in it.
“He kind of held it up,” Heard added. “And I said, ‘What did you do? When?’ And I realized in my head that there had been many hours since this probably happened.”
A PLANE FIGHT ABOUT JAMES FRANCO
Another violent incident that Depp and Heard have described to jurors completely differently was the May 2014 fight on a private flight from Boston to Los Angeles.
Denying he was drunk on the flight, Depp admitted he was on opioids when he “sat on the plane drawing in my notebook,” while he said Heard verbally harassed him. He alleged that the altercation got so overwhelming, he actually went to “hide” in the plane bathroom where he locked himself inside and fell asleep.
But text messages, audio recordings, and Heard’s testimony paint a more sinister picture that alleges another instance of abuse in front of individuals who did nothing to help the actress. On the stand, Heard said that Depp began to berate her about her relationship with James Franco, whom she was co-starring with in The Adderall Diaries.
“He hated James Franco,” Heard said. “He was accusing me of having a thing with him in the past since I had filmed Pineapple Express with him.”
Heard said that the fight escalated when he allegedly slapped and kicked her in the back—an incident she said marked the first time he allegedly abused her in front of others. To corroborate her account, Heard’s lawyers played a recording she made toward the end of the episode, where Depp is seemingly drunkenly babbling incoherently and howling.
Jurors also saw a text message Depp sent his friend, actor Paul Bettany, shortly after the flight. In one text, he says he is going to “properly stop the booze thing” and noted that the flight got “ugly.”
“I’m admittedly too fucked in the head to spray my rage at the one I love for little reason as well,” he said in another text.
During Depp’s cross-examination, Heard’s lawyer read an email that the actor sent to Heard the day after the flight.
“Once again, I find myself in a place of shame and regret,” read the email. “Of course I am sorry, I really don’t know why or what happened, but I will never do it again… I want to get better for you and for me–I must. My illness somehow crept up and grabbed me. I can’t do it again, I can’t live like that again, and I know you can’t either.”
Text messages revealed in the UK trial against Depp also showed the actor’s state of mind after the flight. According to Reuters, Depp wrote to Heard: “I don’t know why or what happened but I will never do it again.”
In November 2020, a London judge found that there was “overwhelming evidence” that Depp had assaulted Heard repeatedly throughout their marriage, and she was “in fear of her life.”
DEPP’S ‘WINO FOREVER’ TATTOO
According to Amber Heard, a conversation over Depp’s “Wino forever” tattoo marked the first time her ex-husband ever physically abused her. But if Depp is to be believed, the argument was nothing remarkable—other than it revealed Heard’s disdain for the tattoo he had originally gotten for Winona Ryder.
The stark difference between what Heard has deemed a turning-point moment in their tumultuous relationship marks yet another example of how the celebrity couple is presenting alternate stories to the jury.
On the stand, Depp denied hitting Heard, stating that he has never struck a woman in his life. He did, however, say that they had a conversation about the tattoo, which originally read “Winona forever” in tribute to the actor’s last relationship. He later changed the tattoo to “Wino forever” after the celebrity pair broke up in the 1990s.
“It didn’t happen,” Depp said about the alleged abuse. “Why would I take such great offense to someone making fun of a tattoo on my body? That allegation never made any sense to me.”
But according to Heard, her inquiry about the older “faded” tattoo prompted her to laugh—and resulted in Depp slapping her. Getting emotional on the stand, at first she thought the attack “must be a joke” before Depp allegedly verbally unleashed on her.
“I didn’t want this to be the reality. I know you don’t come back from that, you can’t hit a woman or a man or anyone, you can’t just hit someone. I knew it was wrong and I knew I had to leave him and it broke my heart as I did not want to leave him.”
Heard said Depp began to question her, saying, “You think it’s funny bitch, you think you’re a funny bitch” before he slapped her “and it was clear it was not a joke anymore.”
“I, as a woman, had never been hit like that. He slapped me for no reason, it seems like, and I missed the point. I just stared at him, I didn’t react or move or freak out or defend myself, I just stared at him. He slapped me one more time, hard,” Heard said, adding that all she could do was stare at the “dirty carpet” in shock. “I didn’t want this to be the reality. I know you don’t come back from that, you can’t hit a woman or a man or anyone, you can’t just hit someone. I knew it was wrong and I knew I had to leave him and it broke my heart as I did not want to leave him.”
Heard said that when she finally stood up, Deep seemingly understood the gravity of the situation—and burst into tears. “He said, ‘Sorry baby, I thought I put the fucker away, I thought I killed it, I thought I put the monster away.’”
THE POOP-ON-THE-BED FIASCO
Much of the online fascination with the ongoing civil defamation trial between Depp and Heard has centered on a cartoonish—and, compared to the more serious allegations of domestic abuse in this trial, decidedly less weighty—incident involving feces on their shared bed.
In April 2016, following a night wherein Heard and her friends celebrated her 30th birthday, Depp’s longtime maid found poop in their bed at her and Depp’s penthouse apartment in Los Angeles. The previous evening, Heard alleged—in the U.K. trial—that Depp attacked her after she criticized him for missing her birthday dinner.
“The argument picked up pace and you picked up a magnum bottle of champagne and you threw it at her, but it missed and the glass smashed,” Heard’s lawyer told Depp during the U.K. trial that he lost. “You grabbed Ms. Heard by the hair and pushed her onto the bed. When she tried to leave you blocked the bedroom door and you tried to grab her hair.” Heard then accused Depp of pushing her to the ground, grabbing her hair, and chest-bumping her. He subsequently left her a note saying “Happy fucking birthday.”
Depp, meanwhile, claimed that he’d received terrible news about the sorry state of his finances and that’s why he missed Heard’s birthday dinner. He testified during the U.K. trial that he was “in a very low state of mind” and possibly smoked marijuana, but that Heard was “angry and aggressive” and he went to bed to “avoid yet another confrontation.”
As for the poop itself, Depp told the court during the Virginia trial, “My initial response to that was, I mean… I laughed. It was so outside. It was so bizarre and so grotesque that I could only laugh.” Depp said he approached Heard about divorce not long after. “I figure she understood as well as I did there was no way back,” Depp testified.
Depp alleged that when he confronted Heard about the poop, she “tried to blame it on the dogs,” but he felt there was no way they could’ve done it as they were teacup Yorkies that “weigh about four pounds each.”
During the U.K. trial, Depp’s maid submitted a written statement saying that “It was clear to me that this was human feces,” and that it could not have come from their dogs. Depp’s maid further claimed that Heard had confronted her in May of 2016, saying that the photos the maid took of the poop in the bed had “destroyed” her marriage. A member of Depp’s security team, meanwhile, testified during the U.K. trial that he’d accompanied Heard and her friends to Coachella the day after her 30th birthday bash, and that when the poop came up she told him it was “a horrible practical joke gone wrong.”
Heard’s team, meanwhile, stated of the poop episode: “This accusation is completely untrue and has been designed purely to humiliate Ms. Heard,” further suggesting that Depp could have been responsible due to his “lavatorial” sense of humor and the fact that Depp had joked about committing a similar prank for years.
A text was then presented in the U.K. trial between Depp and his then-assistant, Stephen Deuters, in Oct. 2013. In the text, Depp wrote to Deuters, “Will you squat in front of the door of the master bedroom and leave a giant coil of dookie so that Amber steps in it and thinks that one of the dogs, primarily Boo, has a major problem… It’ll be funny!!!”
“Will you squat in front of the door of the master bedroom and leave a giant coil of dookie so that Amber steps in it and thinks that one of the dogs, primarily Boo, has a major problem…It’ll be funny!!!”
Speaking of the couple’s teacup Yorkies, Pistol and Boo, Heard alleged during the Virginia trial that Depp once held Boo out of a moving car, leaving everyone—including the dog—aghast.
“He grabs this teacup Yorkie [named] Boo out of the window of the moving car, and he’s howling like an animal while holding the dog out the window,” Heard testified. “And everyone in the car—I’ll never forget it—everyone just froze. No one did anything. It’s this eerie moment where he’s howling and holding this animal out of the car window. More than that weird memory, I have a memory of everyone just kind of not really reacting to him.” (Depp called this “an absolute utter falsity.”)
During a chaotic argument in December 2015 over whether Depp was sleeping with an ex-girlfriend, Heard alleged that Depp headbutted her, leaving her bloodied and with a broken nose.
When asked during the Virginia trial if he headbutted her, Depp first replied, “No, I would vehemently disagree with that, sir,” before explaining, “I was trying to restrain Ms. Heard and once I had restrained her, I would say if she’s trying to still move around and kick at me or trying to get loose, any sort of movement when you’re like this and your heads are this close together, it’s not impossible for them to bump, but a headbutt is a pretty extreme definition of that.”
Audio was then played during the trial of Depp and Heard discussing the incident in July 2016 that appeared to contradict his testimony. “I headbutted you in the fucking forehead. That doesn’t break a nose,” Depp is heard telling her. Depp argued that he was merely “using the words that Ms. Heard was using, but there was not an intentional headbutt.”In the U.K. trial, Heard’s team accused Depp of losing his temper that evening—throwing a decanter, punching the walls, and yanking out a clump of her hair.
“You smacked the back of her head and shoved her. You completely lost your self-control. You headbutted Ms. Heard using the top of your head to head-hit her between the eyes. Ms. Heard fell backwards and her nose began to bleed straight away,” Heard’s attorney told Depp during cross-examination. “And in the bedroom, you grabbed her by the throat and pushed her on the bed, slapped her across the face, saying you are going to kill her. You were in an uncontrollable rage, smothering her, screaming you were going to kill her, and hated her. The bed broke under the force of your weight. You pulled out clumps of her hair.” (The jury was shown photos of a clump of Heard’s hair as well as her sporting the beginning of two black eyes; Depp’s team presented photos of scratch marks on his face.)
Depp, meanwhile, alleged during the U.K. trial that it was Heard who was out of control and swinging at him, and he merely sought to restrain her. “I turned to cover my head and she was swinging quite wildly so the only thing I could do in that situation was either to run or to try to get hold of her, to get my arms around her to stop flailing and punching me, so I did so, as I did so it seems there was a collision.” He continued: “She immediately said ‘you headbutted me,’ and in that moment when I tried to grab her around her arms and her body to control the violence, she immediately said ‘you headbutted me’ and screamed and ran away.”
In the aftermath, Heard sent text messages to her mother about the bruising on her face, to which Heard’s mother Paige replied, “Your dad sent Steve [Depp] a scathing text message…he compared you to Lily-Rose [Depp] and how JD would feel. Your dad’s blood is boiling.”
Texts from Heard’s father, David Heard, sent to Depp were then read for the court during the U.K. trial. “I’m not mad, I understand, a man has got to be a man and I am not saying that you were completely justified, but I understand,” they read. “I’m talking to Paige and I think I understand what is going on a little better. I would say no more hitting for anybody… I know that Amber needs help with her temper the same way you need help with drugs and alcohol.”