Johnny Depp Trial: Cross-examination focuses on Depp's drug use, text messages
FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. - Attorneys for actor Amber Heard sought to undermine Johnny Depp’s libel lawsuit against her Thursday by spending hours in court focused on the actor’s drinking, drug use and texts he sent to friends — including one about wanting to kill and defile his then-wife.
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Heard’s lawyers referenced Depp’s history of trashing hotel rooms and his smashing of a bathroom sconce during an argument with Heard. Depp is also facing a lawsuit filed by a member of a film crew who alleges he was assaulted in 2018.
Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard in a Fairfax County courtroom on Thursday, April 21, 2022
The attorneys are trying to derail Depp’s libel lawsuit against Heard that alleges that she falsely portrayed him as a domestic abuser and ruined his lucrative acting career. They argue that Depp did indeed abuse Heard, both physically and sexually, and claim that Depp can’t deny it because he was often drunk and high on drugs to the point of blacking out.
"I, of course, pounded and displayed ugly colors to Amber on a recent journey," Depp said in a text message to a friend, the actor Paul Bettany, in July 2013, which was shown to jurors.
"I am an insane person and not so fair headed after too much of the drink," Depp continued. "Weed, pills ... Fine!!! Booze??? My capacity is too large and I won’t stop ... Ugly and sad ... Oh, how I love it."
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Heard lawyer J. Benjamin Rottenborn also focused on another exchange that year between Depp and Bettany in which Depp wrote: "Let’s burn Amber!!!"
Bettany responded: "Having thought it through I don’t think we should burn Amber."
Depp texted: "Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will (expletive) her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she’s dead."
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Depp has previously apologized to the jury for the vulgar language in the texts and said that "in the heat of the pain I was feeling, I went to dark places."
Rottenborn also showed the jury one of Depp’s texts to Bettany in 2014 in which he referenced whiskey, pills and cocaine.
The texts were sent during a period in which Depp said he had stopped drinking. And they were sent around the time of a private flight from Boston to Los Angeles, during which Heard had said that Depp became blackout intoxicated and assaulted her.
Rottenborn presented texts that Depp sent to Bettany that said he drank "all night before I picked Amber up to fly to LA this past Sunday … Ugly, mate … No food for days … Powders … Half a bottle of Whiskey, a thousand red bull and vodkas, pills, 2 bottles of Champers on plane …"
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Depp had previously testified that he took two oxycodone pills — an opiate to which he admits he was addicted at the time — and locked himself in the plane bathroom and fell asleep to avoid her badgering. He also disputes that he was drunk on the flight, saying he drank only a glass of Champagne as he boarded the plane.
But Rottenborn also showed the jury Depp’s expressions of contrition following the flight.
"Once again I find myself in a place of shame and regret," Depp wrote to Heard. "Of course, I am sorry. I really don’t know why, or what happened. But I will never do it again … My illness somehow crept up and grabbed me … I must get better. And I will. For us both. Starting today. I love you. Again, I am so sorry. So sorry."
To further bring doubt to Depp’s claim that he was not a problematic drinker at that time, Heard’s attorney then showed the jurors a text that Depp had sent to musician Patti Smith regarding a visit to New York City in 2014 in which he recounted fighting with Heard, getting drunk and being "so disappointed in myself."
Depp has been on the stand in Fairfax County Circuit Court since Tuesday afternoon. The actor has spent much of that time describing the couple’s volatile relationship and denying that he ever abused Heard.
Depp said that Heard often violently attacked him. And he argued that his movie career suffered after she wrote a 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Post, which prompted his libel lawsuit against Heard.
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Heard never mentioned Depp by name in the article, but Depp’s lawyers said it was a clear reference to accusations Heard made when she sought a 2016 restraining order against him.
Depp said the accusations and the article contributed to an unfairly ruined reputation that made him a Hollywood outcast and cost him his role in the lucrative "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise.
When cross-examination began late Wednesday afternoon, Rottenborn pointed to evidence that Disney made that decision months before the article’s publication.
Heard’s lawyers have argued that Heard’s opinion piece was accurate and did not defame him. They have said that Depp’s ruined reputation was due to his own bad behavior.
On the stand Tuesday, Depp called the accusations of drug addiction "grossly embellished," though he acknowledged taking many drugs. He said his drug use started at age 11 when when he secretly took his mother’s "nerve pills."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.