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Johnny Depp's 3rd day in court focuses on his text messages about ex-wife Amber Heard

Actor Johnny Depp at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia on Thursday.
Jim Lo Scalzo
AFP via Getty Images
Actor Johnny Depp at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia on Thursday.

Updated April 21, 2022 at 4:47 PM ET

Editor's note: This story contains profanity and a racial slur.

Actor Johnny Depp returned to the witness stand in a Virginia courtroom on Thursday in his $50 million defamation case against his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard.

Depp says Heard wrongly accused him of domestic abuse — something he has repeatedly denied.

Thursday's questions centered on Depp's own words

Heard's lawyer Ben Rottenborn continued his cross-examination of Depp Thursday morning by asking about the actor's experiences as a child, including an episode when his father punched him.

Rottenborn then asked Depp about his drug use and read aloud a series of text messages in which Depp made vicious and profane remarks about Heard while they were either married or dating. In them, Depp spoke of killing Heard, and he called her a "filthy whore."

"Let's burn Amber!!!" Depp said in one text message to fellow actor Paul Bettany that was shown on a courtroom screen and which Rottenborn read aloud. In another text, Depp added, "Let's drown her before we burn her!!!"

Rottenborn repeatedly asked Depp about the use of the word "monster" to describe a part of his personality. Depp has said that Heard used to the word to describe him. But Rottenborn cited numerous texts in which Depp referenced his "monster" in messages with his close friends, including one in which he spoke of locking his "monster child" away by trying to get off of drugs.

Actress Amber Heard speaks to her attorney during the defamation trial against her at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., on Thursday.
Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Actress Amber Heard speaks to her attorney during the defamation trial against her at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., on Thursday.

Heard's attorney went after Depp's credibility

Rottenborn sought to portray Depp as an unreliable narrator, questioning his ability to recall when certain events occurred and trying to puncture a claim Depp made in court Tuesday — that around the time he and Heard married in February 2015, Depp had been sober for 18 months.

"That's just nonsense, right?" Rottenborn asked the actor.

"Thank you," Depp replied.

Rottenborn then said that less than a year earlier, Depp had written in text messages that he had been drunk on a flight from Boston to Los Angeles. Depp replied in court that he had only had some Champagne on that occasion, along with opioid pills.

The attorney also accused Depp of lying on papers he signed as part of the insurance policy that the Disney studio took out for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which Depp began filming in Australia shortly after he and Heard were married.

Rottenborn showed the jury a section of a cast insurance medical certificate, asking whether the performer being insured had used illegal substances in the past 12 months. Depp had checked a box under the heading "No," Rottenborn said.

But under earlier questioning, Rottenborn noted, Depp acknowledged sending texts to Paul Bettany in May 2014, stating that he had been drinking heavily and using a variety of drugs, including cocaine, before picking up Heard for the Boston-to-Los Angeles flight.

"What do you get? An angry, aggro Injun in a f***in blackout, screaming obscenities and insulting any f*** who got near," Depp said about himself in the text, according to Rottenborn. "I'm done. I am admittedly too f***ed in the head to spray my rage at the one I love."

Rottenborn played an audio recording of Depp on the plane, moaning in pain.

Who severed Depp's finger?

Heard's attorney also spent time trying to undermine Depp's claim that the actress had severed the tip of his middle finger with a shattered vodka bottle.

Rottenborn suggested that Depp had actually wounded himself, constructing a narrative using text messages, documents, and audio recordings.

The jury was shown documentation in which Depp reportedly told doctors that he had cut his finger in an accordion door. Depp contested that, saying someone else on his team may have made the statement.

Rottenborn also presented evidence indicating Depp had told doctors that he had chopped it off with a knife.

In a text, Depp wrote: "I have chopped off my left middle finger as a reminder that I should never cut my finger off again. I love you brother."

Depp had previously said he lied about the incident, in an attempt to keep Heard's name out of reports about it.

Rottenborn also played an audio recording of a conversation between Heard and Depp in which he can be heard saying: "The day that I chopped my finger off."

Later, Rottenborn presented jurors with a video clip showing Depp slamming kitchen cabinets in his home.

When asked to respond to the video on Thursday, Depp said, "Clearly I was having a bad time."

The jury has heard evidence of arguments, and questions of violence

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

On Tuesday, he said, "never did I myself reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way, nor have I ever struck any woman in my life."

Instead, Depp said, it was Heard who was violent with him. During his testimony Wednesday, he accused her of throwing two bottles of vodka at him in Australia after he suggested they get a post-nuptial agreement. The incident severed the tip of one of his fingers and subsequently delayed filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie he was working on at the time, Depp said.

The court also heard recordings of the couple arguing.

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

Heard's essay about domestic abuse sparked the lawsuit

In December 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.

The jury will also consider Heard's countersuit against Depp, which seeks $100 million in damages and alleges that his legal team falsely accused her of fabricating claims against Depp.

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

Ayana Archie
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Bill Chappell
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.