“Aquaman” actor Amber Heard told jurors in a defamation case on Monday that she filed for divorce from Johnny Depp in 2016 because she worried she would not survive physical abuse by him.
Under questioning by her attorneys, Heard said she took the step after the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star threw a cellphone that hit her in the face. The incident made her realize the marriage was “falling apart” despite her attempts to repair it, she said.
“I knew I had to leave him,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t survive it if I didn’t.
“I made the decision to file for divorce,” she added. “It was hard because I loved Johnny so much.”
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Jurors were shown photos of Heard with redness and swelling on her face that she said was caused by being struck by the phone.
At this point in their marriage, “the violence was now normal and not the exception,” Heard said.
In earlier testimony, Depp said he never hit Heard or any woman and argued that she was the abuser in their relationship.
Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 36, for $50 million, saying she defamed him when she claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse. Heard has countersued for $100 million, arguing that Depp smeared her by calling her a liar.
The pair wed in February 2015 and their divorce was finalized about two years later.
Heard said Depp hurled the phone at her during an argument in May 2016 at a Los Angeles penthouse that he owned. The episode is one of several that Heard has described in which she said Depp assaulted her.
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In his testimony, Depp said Heard was the violent one and in early 2015 threw a vodka bottle that cut off the top of his right middle finger.
Heard denied severing Depp’s finger and said she only hit him to defend herself or her sister.
She also denied Depp’s allegation that she had left feces in a bed at one of his homes following a fight on her birthday. A security guard had testified that Heard told him the feces were a “horrible practical joke.”
Heard said she did not commit any prank that day, adding that she was “not in a pranking mood.”
“I had just been attacked on my 30th birthday by my husband, with whom I was desperately in love and knew I needed to leave,” she said.
The legal case hinges on a December 2018 opinion piece by Heard that appeared in the Washington Post. The article never mentioned Depp by name, but his lawyer told jurors it was clear Heard was referencing him. The couple’s divorce was finalized in 2017.
Depp, once among Hollywood’s biggest stars, said Heard’s allegations cost him “everything.” A new “Pirates” movie was put on hold, and Depp was replaced in the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise, a “Harry Potter” spinoff.
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Heard’s attorneys have argued that she told the truth and that her opinion was protected free speech under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.
Closing arguments are scheduled for May 27.
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 that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.
Depp’s lawyers filed the case in Fairfax County, Virginia, because the Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not a defendant.
Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Alistair Bell, Mark Porter and Jonathan Oatis