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“Yes, I Am”: Johnny Depp Casts Himself as the Victim of Domestic Violence After Four Days on the Stand


The third week of Johnny Depp’s defamation case against Amber Heard began with Depp still on the stand. On Monday morning, the actor finished a cross-examination under his ex-wife’s lawyer and then testified as his own lawyer took over for redirect examination.

Throughout his testimony Monday, Depp was more contentious than he’s been previously on the stand. In the first half hour of the cross-examination, Heard’s counsel, Ben Rottenborn, continued the tact of cutting Depp off as he tried to elaborate, and the actor appeared to grow frustrated. “As long as you’re happy, sir,” Depp replied during a particularly contentious moment early on.

Rottenborn stayed the course with what he began on Thursday, when he tried to chip away at Depp’s credibility. The initial line of questioning was around a collection of audio and text messages, which were played and read aloud in court. In one recording, he appeared not to deny that he put cigarettes out on Heard, and then shouts, “Shut up, fat-ass.” Elsewhere, in a text to his agent Christian Carino, he wrote, “She will hit the wall hard!!!! … I can only hope that karma kicks in and takes the gift of breath from her.”

There have been many points in the trial so far that have shown that Heard’s desire for Depp to get sober was a point of contention for them, and on Monday, Rottenborn asserted that Heard wasn’t the only person in Depp’s life who wanted him to stop drinking. He brought Depp’s daughter, Lily-Rose Depp, into it. “You tried to hide your drinking from your daughter, Lily-Rose?”

Depp’s counsel objected, but Rottenborn was eventually allowed to read a text from Depp to Kevin Murphy, his estate manager: “Now Lily-Rose hates me because she thinks I’m drinking, and she’s right.” In another audio clip, Depp seems to tell Heard, who was crying, “I am never getting clean and sober.” (Depp added that he could have been saying, “I have never been clean and sober.”)

Depp’s team objected frequently throughout cross-examination. His counsel seemed to raise one every other question or two, but Rottenborn was still able, by the end, to pepper rapid-fire points at Depp. Often his questions felt rhetorical, if not in practice, then in intent. The lawyer flooded the courtroom with headlines, including a couple from this magazine, that suggested Depp’s career woes began prior to the piece at the heart of the trial, the Washington Post op-ed Heard published in 2018 that said she had been a survivor of domestic abuse. (Depp will have to prove damages, meaning he lost work over the op-ed; the op-ed never mentions Depp by name). As Rottenborn read the headlines, Depp’s responses would vary: “This is a pathetic attempt,” and, “hit pieces,” and, “You should read the article.” (The latter garnered some laughter from the gallery).

As he wrapped up, Rottenborn asked if Depp could name an actor who has “benefited in her career by coming forward and stating that she was the victim of domestic violence,” which again, felt like a point that would raise objection—as speculative as it was. Indeed, Judge Penney Azcarate sustained the objection.

Toward the end of his cross-examination, Rottenborn asked Depp to confirm he is suing Heard, who wrote the article, and not The Washington Post, which published the article. It seemed to be part of a strategy to establish that the suit is a means of revenge rather than exclusively about defamation.

Depp did say of the lawsuit, “It was the only time that I was able to speak and use my own voice.” As the trial enters its third full week, this still feels like the crux of it—Depp has been able to speak with limited pushback and have it broadcast live on Court TV, for two extended periods at this point.



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