Johnny Depp’s attorneys challenge Amber Heard on abuse claims

Heard says harm, including alleged broken nose, not severe enough to be visible or covered by makeup

Attorneys for actor Johnny Depp began their questioning of Amber Heard in the couple's defamation trial on Monday and challenged the Aquaman star's claims that she suffered physical abuse before and during their brief marriage.

Mr Depp's attorneys introduced photographs of Ms Heard making public appearances on red carpets and The James Corden Show shortly after times that she said Mr Depp had struck her with his hands, on which he usually wore heavy rings.

The pictures shown to jurors appeared to reveal no injuries. Ms Heard said the harm, which included what she thought was a broken nose, was not severe enough to be visible or was covered up by makeup.

Mr Depp (58) is suing Ms Heard (36) for €52 million ($50 million), saying she defamed him when she claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse. Ms Heard has countersued for €104 million ($100 million), arguing that Mr Depp smeared her by calling her a liar.

Harming

At the start of cross-examination of Ms Heard, an attorney for Mr Depp asked Ms Heard if she had abused Mr Depp and was further harming him with false allegations.

“I could never hurt Johnny,” Ms Heard said.

Earlier, Ms Heard told jurors that she filed for divorce from Mr Depp in 2016 because she worried she would not survive physical abuse by him. She said she realised the relationship was beyond repair after he threw a cell phone that hit her in the face.

“I knew I had to leave him,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t survive it if I didn’t.”

“I made the decision to file for divorce,” she said. “It was hard because I loved Johnny so much.”

The pair wed in February 2015 and their divorce was finalised about two years later.

Mr Depp has testified that he never hit Ms Heard and argued that she was the abuser in their relationship. He said she threw a vodka bottle at him in early 2015, severing the top of his right middle finger.

Injury

Ms Heard said she did not cause the finger injury and said she only hit him to defend herself or her sister.

She also denied Ms Depp's allegation that she had left faeces in a bed at one of his homes following a fight on her birthday. A security guard had testified that Heard told him the faeces were a "horrible practical joke".

Heard said she did not commit any prank that day, adding that she was “not in a pranking mood”.

“I had just been attacked on my 30th birthday by my husband, with whom I was desperately in love and knew I needed to leave,” she said.

The legal case centres on a December 2018 opinion piece by Ms Heard that appeared in the Washington Post. The article never mentioned Mr Depp by name, but his lawyer told jurors it was clear Ms Heard was referencing him.

Mr Depp, once among Hollywood's biggest stars, said Ms Heard's allegations cost him "everything". A new Pirates of the Caribbean movie was put on hold, and Mr Depp was replaced in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, a Harry Potter spin-off.

Ms Heard’s attorneys have argued that she told the truth and that her opinion was protected free speech under the US constitution’s First Amendment.

Closing arguments are scheduled for May 27th.

Less than two years ago, Mr Depp lost a libel case against the Sun, a British tabloid that labelled him a “wife beater”. A London high court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Ms Heard.

Mr Depp's lawyers filed the case in Fairfax County, Virginia, because the Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not a defendant. – Reuters