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Jury hears recordings of Johnny Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard's volatile arguments

Actor Johnny Depp looks on at the end of the second day of his testimony during the defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard in Fairfax, Virginia on Wednesday.
Evelyn Hockstein
AFP via Getty Images
Actor Johnny Depp looks on at the end of the second day of his testimony during the defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard in Fairfax, Virginia on Wednesday.

Updated April 20, 2022 at 9:32 PM ET

Actor Johnny Depp returned to the witness stand in a Virginia courtroom on Wednesday, a day after he first testified against his ex-wife Amber Heard, whom he is suing for defamation for $50 million after she accused him of domestic abuse.

Under questioning by his attorney, Depp described to the jury how he and Heard would engage in long verbal fights, saying she repeatedly criticized him as being a bad father and used a "rapid-fire, sort of endless parade of insults" against him.

"I was suddenly just wrong — about everything," Depp said. He later added, "Ms. Heard was unable to be wrong. It just didn't happen."

Both of them began recording their fights, he said, after they disagreed over what was said. He accused Heard of "performing for the tape" in the recordings and of trying to surreptitiously record him, stating that there "was something slightly rotten in the state of Denmark, as it were."

Depp again denies abusing Heard, and discusses drugs

Depp reiterated that he never physically abused Heard — a key point in the case being heard in a Fairfax County courthouse.

"Violence was unnecessary," he said. "Why would you hit someone to make them agree with you? I don't think it works."

In testimony on Tuesday, Depp stated, "never did I myself reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way, nor have I ever struck any woman in my life," which he repeated again on Wednesday.

On both days, Depp testified about the early days of his relationship with Heard, his drug use and his childhood. On Wednesday, Depp also said Heard sometimes drank heavily and used drugs — ecstasy (MDMA) and mushrooms.

Depp recounted his efforts to go into rehab, and to free himself of alcohol and drugs. But he alleged that when he asked Heard to quit drinking, she refused.

Fight over a post-nuptial deal led to a bloody injury, Depp said

When they married in early 2015 , the couple didn't have a prenuptial agreement in place, Depp said. He added that his attempt to reach a post-nuptial agreement with Heard upset her, setting off a string of arguments in Australia, where Depp was filming the latest movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Heard arrived in Australia in March 2015, Depp said.

"What really surprised me was that she kept saying, 'I'm not even in your will,' " he said. "I thought that was an odd thing to say."

Depp said he locked himself in a bathroom to get away from Heard, a situation he recounted repeatedly in his testimony.

Depp then went to the bar in the house where he was staying, pouring shots of vodka for himself. When Heard found him, he said, she threw the bottle at him. "It just went right past my head and smashed behind me," Depp said.

He grabbed another, larger bottle of vodka and poured himself another drink. He sat back down, and Heard grabbed that bottle and threw it at him as well, hitting his hand, he said.

Positioning himself in court to reenact a scene in which his hand was sitting on the edge of the bar, Depp said it took him a moment to realize his finger was badly hurt.

The bottle "made contact" and shattered, Depp said, adding that he then saw that "the tip of my finger had been severed, and I was looking directly at my bones sticking out."

Blood began pouring out, he said. "Nothing made sense," Depp said, calling it the closest he has come to a nervous breakdown.

"I started to write with my blood — in my own blood — on the walls. Little reminders from our past" that he said represented "lies that I had caught her in."

The injury to Depp's hand made headlines in 2015, as it forced a lengthy delay in filming the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, in what producers described as an off-set incident.

Depp said he lied to doctors in the local emergency room, "because I didn't want to disclose" what had happened.

Jury hears taped conversations of Depp and Heard's volatile arguments

During the second half of the day, the jury got a small glimpse into some of the chaos of the couple's marriage, as Depp's attorney played several audio recordings of arguments between the two. Depp claims that Heard instigated physical altercations between them, while he sought to flee from her reach.

In one of the longer audio recordings, Heard denies having punched Depp, saying that she just hit him.

"I'm sorry that I didn't hit you across the face in a proper slap, but I was hitting you. I was not punching you. Babe, you're not punched," Heard could be heard saying.

In another recording, Heard apologizes for striking Depp, then expresses frustration over his unwillingness to remain in the same room with her to talk it out. Depp explains that even boxers are split apart by referees when it gets too hairy.

Throughout nearly all of his testimony, Depp put the blame on Heard for some violent incidents. But at one point, he conceded that "there was some accidental contact" on his part during a fight in which he held Heard in a bear hug to keep her from hitting him.

"Don't tell me what it feels like to be punched," Depp responds in the recording, adding that Heard had a closed fist at the time she struck him in the face.

Heard again denies the accusation in the recording, explaining: "You got hit, but I did not punch you. I did not f***ing deck you. I was f***ing hitting you ... I did not hurt you. I did not punch you."

Depp said in court that on the day he intended to discuss their divorce, Heard tried to make it seem as if he was beating her while she was on the phone with a friend by screaming "in her best freaked-out voice."

Shortly after the incident Heard filed for a restraining order and released photos showing herself with purple bruises on her face.

Throughout nearly all of his testimony, Depp put the blame on Heard for the violent incident. But at one point, he conceded that "there was some accidental contact" on his part during a fight in which he held Heard in a bear hug to keep her from hitting him.

Heard's essay about domestic abuse sparked the lawsuit

In December of 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post voicing her support for the Violence Against Women Act. In it, she drew on her own experiences as a survivor of sexual assault and domestic abuse.

The essay didn't directly refer to Depp by name, but his 2019 court complaint states, "the op-ed plainly was about Ms. Heard's purported victimization after she publicly accused her former husband, Johnny Depp, of domestic abuse in 2016, when she appeared in court with an apparently battered face and obtained a temporary restraining order against Mr. Depp."

Depp is suing Heard for three counts of defamation, citing her op-ed that was published on The Washington Post website and in its print newspaper, as well as Heard's posting a link to the piece via her Twitter account.

Depp is seeking at least $50 million in compensatory damages and a punitive award of at least $350,000, along with attorneys' fees and court costs.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.