Johnny Depp and Amber Heard appeared at court in a libel trial against The Sun. Depp is suing the tabloid for publishing false claims of his abuse, but the trial is looking to be a contentious battle between Depp and Heard. 

 

On Tuesday Johnny Depp and Amber Heard attended High Court in London to proceed with the first day of a three-week libel trial against The Sun. 

Depp is suing The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspaper, and its executive editor, Dan Wooton, over an article that said there was “overwhelming evidence” that he attacked Heard in their relationship.

“These sick claims are totally untrue,” Depp said in a written witness statement, adding that Heard’s allegations of abuse affected his career and had “been a constant issue in my casting.”

While Heard is not on trial—she is at court to defend her allegations—the legal event reopens insight into her ill-fated marriage with Depp. Both former spouses have accused each other of instigating violence.

Depp and Heard married in February 2015, after meeting each other on the set of their move “The Rum Diary.” In May 2016, Heard obtained a restraining order against Depp and accused him of domestic abuse, a claim he has denied. They settled their divorce in 2017 and Heard donated her $7million settlement to charity, including one for abused women. 

What the court heard

The Sun’s defense relies on Heard’s allegations of 14 incidents of violence by Depp between 2013 and 2016, in various locations including Los Angeles, Australia, Japan, the Bahamas and a chartered jet.

Depp is eager to shed the accusations of his abuse. On the first day of the libel case, he denied being a “wife beater” and accused Heard of violence during their marriage. Depp claimed that Heard punched him in the face on a plane and on another occasion also threw bottles of vodka at him, injuring his finger. 

In Depp’s written statements, he said he was on a private chartered flight in late 2014 or early 2015 with Heard, when she became “verbally aggressive.”

He wrote: “Then she became physically violent and repeatedly punched me in the face. As I moved towards the back of the plane to get away from her, she followed me into the plane’s bedroom and punched me again in the face and the head.”Depp claimed to have spent the rest of the flight locked in the bathroom.

“Rage-filled violent incidents on planes were common with Amber,” he said in the written statement.

On Wednesday, the events on a flight from Boston to New York—Depp wanted to visit where Heard was filming—were contested. Depp said he does not recall drinking or taking drugs before boarding the plane, but that Heard was “judgemental” of his condition.

At the time, Heard was working on the set of “The Adderall Diaries” where she played a love interest of the lead character played by James Franco. Depp said he had become jealous as Heard had “told him many negative things about Mr. Franco” from her experience in the film Pineapple Express. He also began to suspect an affair between the two. 

On the flight to New York, a lawyer claimed Depp was “screaming obscenities about James Franco in front of everyone,” to which Depp disagreed. Depp allegedly accused Heard of sleeping with Franco and said she liked to engage in sexual activity on set. He also allegedly made derogatory comments about her genitals. 

The Sun’s lawyer said Heard was in a “blind rage” and when she moved seats, Depp threw ice cubes at her. He then called her  “a go-getter slut and a whore” and physically assaulted her when she tried to walk away. Depp then went to the bathroom and passed out. 

Depp denied these accusations and others of his violence towards Heard.

Sherbourne: ‘One side is plainly lying, and to an extraordinary extent’

Heard alleges that Depp’s frequent consumption of drugs and alcohol made him prone to violent rages.

Under cross-examination by The Sun’s lawyer, Depp admitted to taking a variety of drugs over the years, including, marijuana, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, magic mushrooms and prescription painkillers.

Depp said his drug usage began at the age of 11 and he used it to cope with the burdens of fame. “Anonymity doesn’t exist anymore … You have become a product,” he said. But he firmly denies the allegations of abuse.

In a written outline of Depp’s case, his barrister, David Sherborne, said The Sun’s article amounted to a “full-scale attack” on Depp as a “wife beater” and aired “defamatory allegations of the utmost seriousness.”

The article had “repeated Heard’s allegations, referring to what [the author] described as ‘overwhelming evidence’ in her favour, in an obvious attempt to confirm categorically in the readers’ minds— several million readers’ minds —that these appalling and serious allegations of criminality were true.”

Later in the trial, the court will hear from Depp’s former partners, singer Vanessa Paradis and actress Winona Ryder, who claim he was never violent towards them. The court will also hear from friends of Heard who say they were present at moments when Depp was abusive.

The case is growing to be a showdown between Depp and Heard. Sherbourne said the “starkly contrasting nature of the evidence” given by the former spouses is “one of the defining features of this case” and that there is “no real room for a middle ground here.”

He added, “One side is plainly lying, and to an extraordinary extent.”

Candy Chan

Candy Chan is studying History with a focus on War and Revolution at Barnard College. She is currently a staff writer at the Columbia Daily Spectator, covering issues pertaining to Columbia's...