Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard: Depp Explains His Cocaine Texts and Bloody Scrawls During Cross-Examination
On Thursday, the eighth day in Johnny Depp’s defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard, Depp again took the stand. He was subject to a full day of cross-examination following a day and a half of questioning by his own attorneys. Depp filed the suit over a column she wrote for The Washington Post in 2018. In it, Heard described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” (The op-ed did not mention Depp by name.)
In the previous two days of the trial, Depp spoke without much interruption at length about his childhood, his career, the first time he met Heard, their wedding, his opioid detox, his sobriety, various arguments they had as a couple, including one in Australia where he lost the tip of his finger. And in the cross-examination, Heard’s attorney Ben Rottenborn attempted to chip away, piece by piece, text message by text message, at Depp’s credibility on much of that testimony.
Unlike during Depp’s time on the stand on Tuesday and Wednesday, there were fewer extraordinarily confessional moments. The tone of the day was politely combative on either side. Rottenborn’s strategy, informed seemingly by the court’s time constraints after two and a half days of Depp’s testimony, was to question Depp’s recall on a number of points including his sobriety and instances of property damage.
Depp attempted to correct or counter nearly each assertion. In one series of text messages to an employee after his finger injury, he wrote, according to Rottenborn, “And you say, ‘Need more whitey stuff ASAP, brother man. And the E business please. I’m in bad, bad shape. Say nothing to nobody.’” Depp maintained that, “‘More whitey stuff,’ yes, it’s a reference to cocaine, but there’s nothing here that says that I ingested the drug.”
Occasionally, Depp’s jabs back added some levity. Early on, Rottenborn began, “I wanna be respectful of the court’s time and the jury’s time. And I trust that you do too, so—”
“I don’t feel that I’m wasting anyone’s time,” Depp said.
At another point, Rottenborn was discussing a photo from 2013 of a few lines of cocaine, among other things, and asked, “You would sometimes drink whiskey in the mornings too right?”
“I mean, isn’t happy hour anytime?” Depp answered.
When Rottenborn drilled down on whether Depp had done drugs with his friend Marilyn Manson, Depp said, “I once gave Marilyn Manson a pill so that he would stop talking so much.”
Rottenborn questioned Depp about the night he severed his finger, and then wrote messages to Heard around their house house in blood and paint: “On this lampshade, which appears to be sitting on the ground, you write [in] some mixture of blood or paint, ‘Good luck and be careful’ at top, correct?”
“Yes, correct,” Depp said. “Yes. I thought it was good advice.”
Little of the evidence used in Rottenborn’s cross-examination would make a fresh headline given what’s already been aired in the press ahead of this trial in Virginia. Depp’s libel lawsuit against The Sun went to trial in London in summer 2020, and discovery from that case brought much of this to light: The graphic text messages to friends, family, and employees, the drugs, the audio of Heard and Depp arguing about previous arguments, and one video of Depp slamming cabinet doors had already gotten coverage.
In fact, Heard’s counsel leaned on transcripts from the U.K. action throughout the day, essentially using his previous testimony to speed his present testimony along and readily confirm some of their questions. For example, though Depp avoided calling himself a “Southern gentlemen” during his testimony in the U.S., Rottenborn had Depp confirm he considered himself a “Southern gentlemen,” a reference to the U.K. trial, so that he could follow it with questions about Depp’s text messages with Paul Bettany, prior to Heard and Depp’s marriage.
Those messages read in part, “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will f— her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead.” And Bettany replied, “My thoughts entirely! Lets be CERTAIN before we pronounce her a witch.” A source close to Depp has said this was a Monty Python and the Holy Grail reference, a film he and Bettany quoted often together. Bettany himself has said it was “embarrassing” and “We live in a world without context.” In his testimony from Tuesday, Depp attempted to explain his own liberty with words, and again on Thursday he told Rottenborn, “I have a particular way of using words, vocabulary in my vernacular.”