One day before the jury is expected to start deliberating on the defamation case between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, Ms. Heard took the stand on Thursday to address what she described as the persistent harassment and mockery of her abuse accusations against Mr. Depp, her ex-husband.
“I am harassed, humiliated, threatened every single day,” Ms. Heard said. “People want to kill me and they tell me so every day.”
Ms. Heard, 36, and Mr. Depp, 58, have filed dueling defamation lawsuits claiming that false statements about their relationship have ruined their reputations and hindered their careers. Ms. Heard spoke about harassment in the aftermath of statements calling her accusations a hoax, made by a lawyer representing Mr. Depp at the time, which are at the center of her legal claim.
She also spoke about harassment she has experienced during the trial itself — which has been televised and livestreamed — calling the online ridicule of her testimony “agonizing” and saying she had gotten thousands of death threats since the trial began.
Mr. Depp’s fierce denials of Ms. Heard’s accusations of repeated spousal abuse, including several instances of alleged sexual assault, have galvanized an unusual amount of enmity online, where people have posted videos calling her a liar, spread hashtags needling her and competed to fill the space in the courtroom reserved for the public. In her testimony, Ms. Heard also cited efforts to get her fired from jobs, which have included an online petition to remove her from the upcoming movie “Aquaman 2.”
“Perhaps it’s easy to forget that, but I’m a human being,” she said. “And even though Johnny promised that I deserved this and promised he’d do this, I don’t deserve this.”
Mr. Depp’s legal team has sought to rebut the assertion that the social media vitriol was in any way driven by Mr. Depp or the characterization of her complaints as a “hoax.” Rather, his lawyers have argued, it is Ms. Heard’s own credibility that is at issue. They have spent much of the trial calling attention to incidents, for example, where she looked flawless in photographs after accusing Mr. Depp of having recently abused her.
Even Thursday, during Ms. Heard’s testimony, spectators in the courtroom reacted audibly to her remarks, prompting Judge Penney S. Azcarate to offer a stern warning.
“If I hear one more sound I will clear the gallery and we will continue this testimony without anybody in the courtroom, understood?” she said.
Ms. Heard referred the jury to a 2016 text message that Mr. Depp was confronted with in court on Wednesday in which he wrote: “She’s begging for total global humiliation. She’s gonna get it.” Mr. Depp said the text reflected his anger at her false accusations that were beginning to destroy his reputation. He denied the suggestion of one of Ms. Heard’s lawyers that he had tried to get Ms. Heard fired from the first “Aquaman” movie after she filed for, and was granted, a temporary restraining order against him.
Seeking to explain a text message about Ms. Heard that he sent shortly after their falling-out in 2016, which said, “I want her replaced on that WB film!!!,” referring to “Aquaman,” Mr. Depp said that because he recommended Ms. Heard to the production company, he felt responsible for telling it “exactly what was going on and that it was going to end up ugly.”
Ms. Heard’s time on the stand at Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia concluded testimony in the case, which occurred over six weeks. Closing arguments will take place Friday morning, and the case is expected to be handed over to a seven-person jury in the afternoon.
Johnny Depp’s Libel Case Against Amber Heard
In the courtroom. A defamation trial involving the formerly married actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is currently underway in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia. Here is what to know about the case:
The case. Mr. Depp brought a defamation case against Ms. Heard in an effort to clear his name from domestic abuse allegations that she has made against him and that he denies. The jury is also considering a countersuit from Ms. Heard, who claims that Mr. Depp defamed her when his former lawyer said her domestic abuse claims were a “hoax.”
Ms. Heard’s op-ed. Mr. Depp’s suit was filed in response to an op-ed Ms. Heard wrote for The Washington Post in 2018 in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Though she did not mention her former husband’s name, he and his lawyers have argued that she was clearly referring to their relationship.
The end of their marriage. Ms. Heard filed for divorce in 2017, just over a year after the pair had married. She also obtained a temporary restraining order against the actor after accusing him of hitting her. She later withdrew that claim, and in January 2017, the couple agreed to a $7 million divorce settlement.
An earlier defamation case. The trial follows another case Mr. Depp brought in London in 2020 against The Sun newspaper, which called him a “wife beater” in a headline. In that trial, a judge found that there was evidence that he had assaulted Ms. Heard repeatedly.
The domestic abuse claims. In the 2020 trial, Ms. Heard accused her former husband of assaulting her first in 2013, after they began dating, and detailed other instances in which he slapped her, head-butted her and threw her to the ground. Mr. Depp has since accused her of punching him, kicking him and throwing objects at him.
Mr. Depp sued Ms. Heard for defamation over her 2018 Washington Post op-ed titled: “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” In it, Ms. Heard called herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” She did not name Mr. Depp, but he has argued that the article clearly alluded to their relationship, which he said “devastated” his career.
Ms. Heard’s 2020 countersuit argued that false statements to a British tabloid, The Daily Mail, made by a lawyer who represented Mr. Depp at the time, accusing Ms. Heard of staging a hoax, had defamed her. Ms. Heard’s lawyers called up experts in social media and the entertainment world to explain how her reputation had been negatively affected by the statements. Mr. Depp’s team did the same, seeking to show how his career had been affected by the op-ed.
In her cross-examination Thursday of Ms. Heard, a lawyer for Mr. Depp, Camille Vasquez, questioned her about recent witness testimony that challenged Ms. Heard’s accounts in which the actress had described episodes of abuse at the hands of Mr. Depp.
For example, she cited testimony from Morgan Night, a former owner and manager of a California vacation spot called Hicksville Trailer Palace, where, Ms. Heard testified, Mr. Depp screamed at her about another woman getting too physically intimate with her and smashed objects in their trailer. Mr. Night testified that he recalled Ms. Heard being upset with Mr. Depp, not vice versa, and that the only damage he saw in the trailer was a broken light fixture, which Mr. Depp has acknowledged breaking.
Ms. Heard testified that she did not know who Mr. Night was and suggested that people were coming “out of the woodwork” to support Mr. Depp. (Mr. Depp’s lawyers found Mr. Night after others associated with Hicksville passed along his information. Mr. Night said he was not a fan of Mr. Depp’s, but Ms. Heard’s lawyers pointed out that he had replied to a pro-Depp Twitter account saying that he had firsthand information about what had happened.)
“I know how many people will come out and say whatever for him,” Ms. Heard said. “That’s his power. That’s why I wrote the op-ed. I was speaking to that phenomenon: how many people will come out in support of him and will fall to his power.”