Johnny Depp's attorneys challenge Amber Heard on abuse claims

Actors Amber Heard (left) and Johnny Depp at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Virginia on May 16, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Attorneys for Hollywood actor Johnny Depp began their questioning of actress Amber Heard in the couple's defamation trial on Monday (May 16), as they challenged her claims that she suffered physical abuse before and during their brief marriage.

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

The pictures shown to jurors appeared to reveal no injuries.

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.

Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 36, for US$50 million (S$70 million), saying she defamed him when she claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse.

Heard has counter-sued for US$100 million, arguing that Depp smeared her by calling her a liar.

At the start of cross-examination of Heard, an attorney for Depp asked the Aquaman (2018) actress if she had abused Depp and was further harming him with false allegations.

"I could never hurt Johnny," she said.

Earlier, Heard told jurors that she filed for divorce from 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 added. "It was hard because I loved Johnny so much."

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

Depp has testified that he never hit Heard and argued that she was the abuser in their relationship.

The star of the Pirates Of The Caribbean films (2003 to 2017) said she threw a vodka bottle at him in early 2015, severing the top of his right middle finger.

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

She also denied 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 Heard that appeared in the Washington Post. The article never mentioned Depp by name, but his lawyer told jurors it was clear Heard was referencing him.

Depp, once among Hollywood's biggest stars, said Heard's allegations cost him "everything".

A new Pirates Of The Caribbean movie was put on hold, and Depp was replaced in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise (2016 to present), a Harry Potter spin-off.

Heard's attorneys have argued that she told the truth and that her opinion was protected free speech under the United States Constitution's First Amendment.

Closing arguments are scheduled for May 27.

Less than two years ago, 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 Heard.

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

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