The trial in Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard is currently underway in Virginia.
Depp sued Heard in March 2019, alleging a column Heard wrote in The Washington Post about domestic violence was defamatory and asking for $50m in damages. Heard has filed a $100m countersuit.
The proceedings began with jury selection on April 11, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia. Heard’s witnesses are expected to include James Franco and Elon Musk.
Here is a timeline of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s relationship, separation, and court battles, from when they are said to have started dating to the latest trial:
2012: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard start dating
Depp and Heard are believed to have started dating that year, after Depp split from his long-time partner, French actor Vanessa Paradis. Depp and Paradis have two children: a daughter named Lily-Rose and a son named Jack.
Heard and Depp are believed to have met on the set of the 2011 film The Rum Diary, in which they both starred.
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March 2014: Depp and Heard get engaged
Depp confirms that he and Heard are engaged, after a couple of months of speculation. “The fact that I’m wearing a chick’s ring on my finger is probably a dead giveaway,” he said while promoting the film Transcendence. “Not very subtle.”
February 2015: The couple get married
Heard and Depp marry. According to People magazine, they had two ceremonies: the first at Depp’s home in Los Angeles, and the second at Depp’s private island in the Bahamas.
May 2016: Heard files for divorce
Heard files for divorce from Depp, citing irreconcilable differences. That same month, a judge grants Heard a restraining order against Depp over allegations of domestic violence on his part.
In a sworn declaration, she alleges that Depp threw a mobile phone at her during a fight, which struck her in the eye and the cheek, and that he screamed at her, hit her, violently grabbed her face, and pulled her hair. According to The Associated Press, she submits to the court a photo of her bruised face when requesting the restraining order.
Heard is seen with “a bruise on her right cheek below the eye”, per the AP, during a court appearance.
“During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me,” Heard writes in the filing. “I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.”
She also writes: “I live in fear that Johnny will return to [our house] unannounced to terrorise me, physically and emotionally.”
Depp has denied the allegations of domestic abuse. His lawyers alleged in a court document in 2016 that Heard was “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse”.
The LAPD said in May 2016 that police officers who responded to a domestic incident radio call on the 21st of that month found “no evidence of any crime”. Heard’s legal team has since subpoenaed the LAPD in connection to that same call as part of the ongoing defamation court case opposing Heard and Depp.
August 2016: Depp and Heard settle their divorce
After months of contentious proceedings, Depp and Heard reach a settlement in their divorce.
“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” the pair say in a joint statement at the time. “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.”
Heard pledges to donate the $7m from Depp to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. (In August 2021, a New York judge partially granted a petition from Depp to determine whether donations had been made.)
January 2017: The divorce is official
Depp and Heard formally finalise their divorce.
“We are all pleased to put this unpleasant chapter in Mr Depp and his family’s lives behind them,” Depp’s attorney Laura Wasser writes in a statement. “Having his request for entry of the dissolution judgment granted today made it a particularly lucky Friday the 13th.”
Heard’s lawyer tells Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carl H Moor that his client “would be very happy to move on with her life”.
June 2018: Depp sues over headline in The Sun
On June 1, 2018, Depp sues News Group Newspapers, the company that publishes The Sun, for alleged libel over an article published in the tabloid newspaper in April of that year, with the headline: “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”
Depp would eventually lose the case.
December 2018: Amber Heard publishes article
On December 18, 2018, Heard publishes an op-ed article in The Washington Post titled: “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”
In it, she writes in part: “Like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age. But I kept quiet – I did not expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn’t see myself as a victim.
“Then, two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
Depp isn’t mentioned by name in the op-ed.
March 2019: Depp sues Heard
Depp files a $50m (€47.6m) lawsuit against Heard, alleging she defamed him in her Washington Post op-ed.
“The op-ed depended on the central premise that Ms Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her,” the complaint alleges in part, calling the claim of domestic abuse “categorically and demonstrably false”.
July 2020: Depp’s lawsuit against The Sun goes to trial
The trial opens on July 7, 2020 in London. Depp and Heard both arrive at the High Court of Justice, with Heard scheduled to testify in support of The Sun.
Depp’s lawyers argue he is seeking “vindication”, not money, and Depp himself denies the allegations of domestic abuse. A spokesperson for Heard tells Vanity Fair Heard “never asked for these proceedings to take place” and “has tried to move on with her life”.
The trial lasts for three weeks, with explosive allegations emerging as part of the evidence and testimony. The proceedings wrap up at the end of July.
August 2020: Amber Heard countersues
Heard files a $100m (€95.2m) countersuit against Depp in response to his libel lawsuit, accusing him of allegedly orchestrating a “smear campaign” against her and describing his own lawsuit as a continuation of “abuse and harassment.”
In the filing, Heard asks the court to grant her immunity from Depp’s complaint and asks for compensatory damages of “not more than $100m”, specifying this is “twice the amount Mr Depp asserted against Ms Heard.”
November 2020: Depp loses his libel battle against The Sun
The court rules in favour of The Sun in the libel lawsuit. Justice Andrew Nicol said the defendants proved that their allegations against Depp were “substantially true”, The Associated Press reports at the time.
“I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved to the civil standard,” the judge writes in a ruling.
An attorney for Depp calls the judgment “so flawed that it would be ridiculous for Mr Depp not to appeal this decision”.
March 2021: Depp is denied permission to appeal loss in The Sun case
Two court of appeal judges find against granting Depp permission to appeal the judge’s decision in his libel suit against The Sun.
Per the AP, Justices James Dingemans and Nicholas Underhill ruled that the original hearing was “full and fair” and the judge’s rulings “have not been shown even arguably to be vitiated by any error of approach or mistake of law.”
Dingemans and Underhill found that “the appeal has no real prospect of success and that there is no other compelling reason for it to be heard.”
“It is clear from a reading of the judgment as a whole that the judge based his conclusions on each of the incidents on his extremely detailed review of the evidence specific to each incident,” they said.
“In an approach of that kind there was little need or room for the judge to give weight to any general assessment of Ms Heard’s credibility.”
April 11, 2022: Defamation case goes to trial in Virginia
The trial in Depp’s defamation case against Heard began on April 11, 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia. (The Washington Post, in which Heard’s op-ed was published, has printing facilities in the state.)
Heard’s witnesses are expected to include James Franco and Elon Musk, who are listed as potential witnesses who may participate by video link.
Depp suffered a significant setback before the trial began when the judge in the case, Virginia Judge Penney Azcarate, found that Heard could argue that her op-ed deals with a matter of public interest.
Per the AP, Depp’s legal team had tried to argue that Heard shouldn’t be able to rely on Virginia’s anti-SLAPP legislation. Anti-SLAPP laws, which stand for anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, are designed to protect people from being sued when they speak out on matters of public interest.
Judge Azcarate ruled that Heard could, in fact, invoke Virginia’s anti-SLAPP legislation in her defence and argue to the jury that it should apply to her op-ed.