FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are in court testifying before a seven-person jury in a defamation trial about the nature of their relationship amid multiple domestic abuse allegations against both actors.
(NOTE: The video in the player above is from an April 26 report on "mutual abuse.")
For the first time in weeks, though, neither actor will be in court as Judge Penney Azcarate attends a scheduled conference.
It is a trial that has captivated people in the United States, particularly on social media. The #JusticeForJohnnyDepp hashtag accumulating 9.8 billion views on TikTok so far, while the #IStandWithAmberHeard hashtag has received 3.5 million views on that same platform.
Memes and hot takes have trended since the trial's start for days on Twitter, as legions of Depp supporters proclaim his innocence, and multiple domestic violence advocates likewise caution against the swift repudiations of Heard being made within that online space, because it could deter victims of domestic violence from coming forward about their abuse.
Here's what to know before they head back to court:
The lawsuit centers around a 2018 op-ed Heard wrote for the Washington Post titled “I spoke out against sexual violence and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
In the piece, Heard referred to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse." The article doesn't mention Depp, once the world's highest paid actor, by name. But he claimed it clearly referred to allegations Heard made in other forums, where she claimed to have suffered physical abuse at his hands throughout their relationship and marriage.
Depp denied the domestic abuse accusations, and filed a $50 million defamation suit against Heard in March 2019.
The suit said Depp suffered financial losses because of Heard's allegations, which including being dropped from his lucrative role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. Depp’s manager, Edward White, eventually testified he believed the actor could have earned an estimated $22.5 million if he had done the movie.
Heard filed a motion to dismiss Depp’s complaint in April 2019, but his legal team filed an opposition to that motion shortly after. Heard then countersued her ex-husband for $100 million, alleging he defamed her when his former legal team released statements calling her allegations of abuse against Depp a hoax she contrived to advance her acting career.
The pair first got together after they co-starred in the 2011 movie, "The Rum Diary," and tied the knot in 2015. They were married for 15 months. Heard filed for divorce in May 2016, and that’s when she first brought allegations of domestic abuse against Depp. Their divorce was finalized in 2017. Heard also issued a domestic violence restraining order against him.
In 2020, Depp lost a libel case against the London-based newspaper The Sun over headlines that called him a wife beater that were published in 2020. Unlike the United States trial, Heard was not a defendant in that case, but she did testify.
That trial would set the tone for the current defamation trial taking place in Fairfax County, Virginia, which was chosen as the location because the online edition of The Washington Post is published via servers in that county. Heard’s legal team previously pushed to have the trial in California.
The trial began on April 11. According to the Associated Press, the accounts provided to the court by Depp and Heard throughout the last few weeks vary drastically from one another.
Depp took the stand first, on April 19, and claimed Heard defamed him when she published the 2018 op-ed. His legal team also argued Heard was the abusive one in the relationship.
He denied Heard’s claims that she had been assaulted on more than a dozen occasions by the actor throughout his testimony, and said Heard was irate over efforts by Depp’s lawyers to have her sign a post-nuptial agreement, as well as the fact that Depp wasn’t adhering to pledges of sobriety to Heard’s satisfaction.
Heard took the stand about three weeks later, on May 5, and claimed the first time she was assaulted by the actor was in late 2013, when he allegedly struck her three times for laughing at a tattoo referencing his ex-girlfriend Winona Ryder.
“It was so stupid, so insignificant,” Heard told the jury. “I thought it must be a joke.”
Depp denied the incident. “Why would I take such great offense to someone making fun of a tattoo on my body? That allegation never made any sense to me,” he said.
Both parties recall the worst violence that occurred in their relationship was in 2015, when Depp was in Australia filming for the fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie.
During that time, Heard claimed Depp assaulted her vaginally with a liquor bottle and threatened to carve up her face. He claimed she cut off a slice of his finger.
The trial is expected to end May 19. The jury will then decide whether Heard did defame Depp in the 2018 op-ed, and whether he should be awarded damages.