Accusations by actress Amber Heard of physical abuse were "not based in any species of truth," actor Johnny Depp said during his testimony in a Virginia courtroom on Tuesday in the US defamation trial where he accuses Heard of ruining his career with false accusations of violence during their relationship.
"There were arguments and things of that nature, but never did I myself reach the point of striking... nor have I ever struck any woman in my life," Depp, 58, told the court. "Since I knew there was no truth to it whatsoever, I knew it was my responsibility to stand up not only for myself but to stand up to my children who at the time were 14 and 16."
He said that he "thought it was diabolical that my children had to go to school and have their friends or people in the school approach them with the infamous People magazine cover with Ms. Heard with a dark bruise on her face."
"She had become another person," Depp said of Heard.
Depp further told of his history of being physically abused as a child by his mother. "She could become quite violent and she was quite violent and she was quite cruel," he explained. "There was physical abuse which could be in the form of an ashtray being thrown or you'd get beaten with a telephone... In our house, we were never exposed to any type of safety or security. The only thing that one could do was to try to stay out of the line of fire."
He said, "The verbal abuse, the psychological abuse was almost worse than the beatings. The physical pain, you learn to accept it. The psychological and emotional abuse, that's what tore us up, I think."
He told of his father's passivity in the face of his mother's abuse. He had eventually left the house when Depp was 15. His mother attempted suicide shortly thereafter.
Depp alleges that Heard, 35, defamed him when she penned a December 2018 opinion piece in the Washington Post about being a survivor of domestic abuse. He filed a $50 million lawsuit against Heard in 2018.
The article never mentioned Depp by name, but Depp lawyer Benjamin Chew told jurors a week ago that it was clear Heard was referencing the Hollywood leading man.
Attorneys for Heard have argued she told the truth and that her opinion was protected as free speech under the US Constitution's First Amendment.
Witnesses called by Depp's lawyers have included friends of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star and a doctor and a nurse who said they treated him for substance abuse. The witnesses testified that they were aware of arguments between the couple but had not witnessed physical abuse by Depp toward Heard.
"Their arguments were a trigger for him emotionally," Debbie Lloyd, who worked as a nurse for Depp when he was engaged to Heard, said in a videotaped March 8 deposition that was played for the jury on Monday. "They would cause him to be upset, add stress."
When asked by a lawyer for Depp if she was aware that any of the arguments between Depp and Heard became physical, Lloyd replied, "No."
A state court judge in Fairfax County, Virginia, is overseeing the trial, which is in its second week and is expected to last for six weeks.
Less than two years ago, Depp lost a libel case against The Sun, a British tabloid that labeled him a “wife-beater." A London High Court judge ruled he had repeatedly assaulted Heard and put her in fear for her life.
In the US case, Depp and Heard both submitted long lists of potential witnesses they could put on the stand.
Heard’s list includes her ex-boyfriend and Tesla TSLA.O Chief Executive Elon Musk, with whom she texted about Depp. Also on the list of potential witnesses is actor James Franco.
The Washington Post is not a defendant in the case. Depp’s lawyers have said they filed the case in Fairfax County, outside the District of Columbia, because the newspaper is printed at a facility there.
The United States is a difficult forum for libel plaintiffs, especially public figures like Depp, who must prove by clear and convincing evidence that Heard knowingly made false claims.
Depp and Heard met while making 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married four years later. Heard accused Depp of domestic abuse after filing for divorce in 2016.
Heard, known for roles in "Aquaman" and "Justice League," has brought her own libel claim against Depp, saying he smeared her by calling her a liar.
Heard's counterclaim will be decided as part of the trial. Heard is seeking $100 million in damages from Depp, according to court papers.
Following the November 2020 ruling in the London libel trial, Depp was replaced with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen in the third film in the "Fantastic Beasts" franchise, a spin-off from the “Harry Potter” books and films.