EXPLAINER

A breakdown of Johnny Depp's two-day testimony against ex-wife Amber Heard in defamation case

The actor addressed the jury on Tuesday and Wednesday to deny Heard's allegations of domestic abuse

By Joy Saha

Published April 20, 2022 4:48PM (EDT)

US actor Johnny Depp testifies during his defamation trial in the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 19, 2022. - Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. (JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
US actor Johnny Depp testifies during his defamation trial in the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 19, 2022. - Depp is suing ex-wife Amber Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. (JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Johnny Depp took the stand at Virginia's Fairfax County Circuit Court on Tuesday to share his side of the story as both the actor and his ex-wife Amber Heard face off in a $100 million defamation trial.

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor delivered a three-hour long testimony on Tuesday detailing his early relationship with Heard, his tumultuous childhood and his struggles with substance abuse. Depp also denied Heard's allegations of domestic abuse.   

"My goal is the truth," Depp said in his opening remarks.

As a quick refresher, Depp is suing Heard over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed, in which Heard details personal accounts of domestic violence but refrains from explicitly naming Depp as her abuser. Depp sued Heard for $50 million, accusing her of defamation. Heard then countersued for $100 million, alleging Depp had attempted to taint both her career and name. 

In 2016, Heard filed for divorce from Depp and claimed the actor had physically assaulted her — usually while under the influence of drugs and alcohol — throughout their relationship. A court filing showcased photographs of Heard's bruised face and images of smashed bottles in the couple's apartment.  

RELATED: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's ongoing defamation trial: Here's everything you need to know

Depp denied the accusations in his testimony and told the jury, "Never did I myself reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way nor have I ever struck any woman in my life." He also explained why he brought the suit against Heard, stating that he felt a "responsibility to clear my name."

"One day you're Cinderella and then in zero point six seconds you're Quasimodo," Depp said about his career and reputation, which both took hits following the allegations and published op-ed. "I didn't deserve that and neither did my children."

On Wednesday, Depp resumed his testimony and accused Heard of name calling as well as verbal and physical abuse. He also compared his relationship with Heard to his relationship with his abusive mother.

Here's a complete breakdown of Depp's main points from his two-day testimony, separated by day and arranged in order:

Tuesday

Depp says he had to stand up for his children

Depp spoke about his children — Lily-Rose Depp, 22, and Jack Depp, 20 — and the responsibility he felt to protect them both during the height of his scandal with Heard.

"I felt it my responsibility to stand up not only for myself in that instance but stand up for my children, who at the time were 14 and 16, so they were in high school," Depp shared. "I thought it was diabolical that my children would have to go to school and have their friends or people in the school approach them with the infamous People magazine cover with Ms. Heard with a dark bruise on their face. And then it kept multiplying, it kept getting bigger and bigger."

Depp says he was a victim of "physical abuse" as a child and opens up about his childhood

Depp revealed that his mother, Betty Sue Palmer, would frequently hit him, throw things at him and ridicule him when he was a child. Depp also shared that he wore an eye patch during his youth to correct a vision problem. His medical condition, however, resulted in more "verbal" and "psychological abuse" at the hands of his mother. Depp earned the moniker "cockeye" from his mother while his brother, who wore glasses and had crooked teeth, was oftentimes called "four eyes" and "bucktooth."

Depp then expressed sympathy for his father, John Christopher Depp, who he called a "good man." The actor said his parents fought often but he never saw his father be violent towards his mother.  

"My father is not an abusive man," Depp said. "At the same time my father was to some degree at the mercy of Betty Sue."

Depp delves into the beginnings of his relationship with Heard

Depp and Heard met in 2009 on the set of "The Rum Diary." The couple started dating in 2012 and three years later, they got married in a private ceremony in L.A.

In his testimony, Depp reminisced on his early relationship with Heard, telling the jury "from what I recall, what I remember, it was as if she was too good to be true."

"She was attentive, she was loving, she was smart, she was kind, she was funny, she was understanding … we had many things in common, certain blues music, music, literature, for that year, year and a half, it was amazing," Depp continued.

Heard later filed for divorce in 2016 and obtained a temporary restraining order against Depp. The pair officially split in 2017.

Depp apologizes for his foul language in texts sent to Heard

In his texts, Depp repeatedly referred to Heard as a "c**t" and once said he hoped Heard's "rotting corpse was decomposing in the f**king trunk of a Honda Civic." Depp also called Heard a "gold-digger" and wrote in an email, "I can only hope that karma kicks in and takes the gift of breath from her."

"I am ashamed of some of the references made," Depp told the court. "I'm embarrassed that at the time, the heat of the moment, the heat of the pain that I was feeling went to dark places."

"Pain has to be dealt with humor, something dark, very dark humor," he added.

Depp says his first experience with drugs was at age 11

Depp's substance abuse began at a young age when he took his mother's prescription pills "to escape the chaotic nature of what we were living through."

"I'd done pretty much all the drugs I was aware of by the time I was 15 years old," Depp said. "It's never been for the party effect. It's been for trying to numb the things inside that can plague someone who has experienced trauma."

Depp said he also smoked marijuana and was "not shy" to try other substances that might "take the edge off." The actor revealed that he became addicted to Roxicodone, also known as Oxycodone, following a leg injury.

Despite his heavy drug use, Depp acknowledged that substance abuse is not the right way to cope with emotional problems. "It was essentially just self-medication," he said. "Where you want to escape from is your own brain, your own head."

Depp also accused Heard of exaggerating his drug and alcohol use, saying her claims were "grossly embellished" and "plainly false."

"I think I was an easy target to hit, because once you've trusted someone for a number of years and told them all the secrets of your life, that information can be used against you," he said.

Wednesday

Depp claims Heard had a "pure hatred" for him and compares Heard to his mom

Depp began his second day of testimonies by criticizing his ex-wife and detailing the fear he felt during their relationship.

"As it escalated and continued to escalate, I went to what I learned as a youth, which was to remove myself from the situation so it couldn't continue," he said.  

When asked by his attorney why he decided to stay in a relationship with Heard, Depp said he "wanted to try to make it work."

"Ms. Heard had spoken of suicide on a couple of occasions, so that also becomes a factor, that's something that lives in the back of your brain," he added. Depp then brought up a moment from his childhood, when his mother attempted to commit suicide after his father left, which influenced his decision.

"You slowly realize you're in a relationship with your mother, in a sense," he later shared, continuing that Heard would call him names and verbally abuse him in the same manner as his mother.

Depp says Heard wanted him to get a tattoo of her own name

Depp also spoke about his tattoos in court and revealed the one tattoo that Heard did not like. It was his "Winona forever" tattoo, which Depp got for his former-girlfriend, actor Winona Ryder. The tattoo was later changed to "Wino forever" after the pair broke up.  

Depp said that Heard insisted he get a tattoo of her name, which he eventually did.

"And ironically it wasn't long after that that everything started going sideways," Depp said.

"I was doing everything I could to bring a smile to her face as opposed to a frown and then the onslaught of whatever problems she was experiencing," he continued. "I would try to wake her up with laughter, singing stupid songs in her ear. I generally just tried to keep bringing her mood up. Sometimes it worked, many times it didn't. But I tried."

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Joy Saha

Joy Saha is an editorial fellow at Salon, covering Culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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