‘I did start a physical fight’: Heard’s abuse accusations challenged with recording

Amber Heard in tense legal battle with Johnny Depp over competing defamation claims

A lawyer for Johnny Depp sought to discredit abuse accusations by his ex-wife, Amber Heard, during cross-examination on Tuesday, confronting her with audio recordings of the couple's arguments as well as text messages and love notes that the lawyer suggested showed Ms Heard to be an unreliable witness.

As Ms Heard finished her testimony at Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia, the lawyer, Camille Vasquez, challenged Ms Heard's assertions that she has only ever hit Mr Depp as a defence.

Ms Vasquez played recordings from an argument several years ago in which Ms Heard acknowledged, "I did start a physical fight", and called Mr Depp a "baby".

Ms Heard testified that in that incident, she hit him only because he was trying to “bust” into the bedroom where she was trying to hide from him. “I accused him of being a baby for complaining about me hitting him when he was trying to get through the door that I was trying to barricade,” she testified on Tuesday.

Ms Heard (36) is locked in a tense legal battle with Mr Depp (58) over competing defamation claims and has spent several hours during the trial sharing her accounts of repeated physical abuse throughout their relationship, as well as multiple instances of sexual assault.

Mr Depp has denied ever hitting or sexually assaulting her and has accused her of being the abuser in the relationship.

Mr Depp sued Ms Heard three years ago over an op-ed, published in the Washington Post, in which she called herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse”. Ms Heard countersued Mr Depp, saying that his former lawyer had defamed her by calling her accusations of abuse a hoax.

Bottle

During one part of her questioning, Ms Vasquez challenged an account of the aftermath of an incident in Australia in 2015, in which, according to Ms Heard, Mr Depp sexually assaulted her with a bottle and beat her while he was intoxicated on MDMA. Ms Heard testified that after Mr Depp's attack, she had a bruised jaw, as well as cuts on her arms and feet from broken glass on the ground.

“There is not a single medical record reflecting treatment for any of those injuries, is there, Ms Heard?” Ms Vasquez asked. “I didn’t seek treatment,” Ms Heard replied.

Mr Depp has testified that he was the person injured that night when Heard threw a vodka bottle, hitting his hand and severing part of one of his fingers. Ms Heard said he injured his finger by smashing a wall-mounted phone into “smithereens” while in a rage; Ms Vasquez pointed to a lack of photographic evidence of the broken phone or of the injuries Ms Heard said she suffered that night.

Ms Heard said documentation of the abuse was incomplete because she only started taking photos of her injuries “incidentally”, when she wanted to show a friend or her mother.

She never envisioned a legal battle like this, she said. Ms Vasquez also presented a love note that Ms Heard wrote to Mr Depp about two months after the Australia incident, which included the line, “I have seen in you the true bones of friendship and respect”. Ms Heard said the couple had been in a “honeymoon period” at the time.

As in Mr Depp’s testimony, Ms Heard’s cross-examination involved an airing of insults she had hurled at him during arguments. In one recording, Ms Heard can be heard calling him a “sellout” and a “joke”. She acknowledged on the stand that she called him “horrible, ugly things”, noting that he called her names too.

In her lawyers’s cross-examination of Mr Depp, they brought forward several text messages to other people in which he referred to Ms Heard using insults and obscenities, including calling her a “worthless hooker”.

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Central to the case is the op-ed, and Ms Vasquez sought to establish that, even if Ms Heard did not mention Mr Depp by name in the piece, it was clear that the subject was their relationship. Ms Heard confirmed that when she said she became a “public figure representing domestic abuse” she was referring to getting a temporary restraining order against Mr Depp in 2016.

At one point, Ms Vasquez focused on the article’s headline: “I spoke up against sexual violence, and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.” Ms Heard denied writing the headline, testifying that the Washington Post did not consult her on it, and said she had no intention of making public her allegations of sexual assault in that op-ed. When she tweeted the op-ed, Ms Heard testified, she did not realise what the headline said.

“Not very careful about what you publish, are you, Ms Heard?” Ms Vasquez asked. “I just didn’t notice the title,” she said. After Ms Heard left the stand, the jury heard prerecorded testimony from iO Tillett Wright, a former friend of the couple who said he never saw either of them hit the other. But he said that in 2015, shortly after a fight in which Ms Heard said Mr Depp had pulled out chunks of her hair, he witnessed injuries to her scalp.

Throughout Ms Heard’s testimony, which occurred over four days of the trial, Mr Depp has kept his focus away from his ex-wife on the stand, often staring at a screen in front of him. On Monday, Ms Vasquez said he looked away from her because he had promised her that she would never see his eyes again.

But during redirect on Tuesday, one of Ms Heard's lawyers, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, asked her why she thought Mr Depp had avoided looking at her. "Because he's guilty, because he knows he's lying," Ms Heard said. "Otherwise, why can't he look at me?" – This article originally appeared inThe New York Times.