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From explosive op-ed to partner-inflicted PTSD: A timeline of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's court battle

By AYIE LICSI Published May 05, 2022 6:36 pm Updated May 17, 2022 2:12 pm

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are currently battling it out in a defamation lawsuit in Virginia that dates back to 2018.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star sued his ex-wife, alleging the 2018 op-ed Heard wrote for the Washington Post about domestic violence was derogatory and “not based in any species of truth.”

So what happened between the two actors before the controversial case? Here's a timeline of their relationship, separation, allegations, and ongoing court battle.

2012 to 2015: Falling in love

Depp and Heard started dating in 2012, a few years after meeting on the set of The Rum Diary in 2009 and both actors split up with their respective partners.

The Edward Scissorhands star was formerly in a long-term relationship with French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis. They were together for 14 years and share two children: Lily-Rose and Jack.

Heard, meanwhile, was in a domestic relationship with photographer Tasya van Ree from 2008 to 2012.

Heard and Depp in 2015

In January 2014, People reported that Depp and Heard were engaged.

A little over a year after their engagement, the couple exchanged vows in February 2015 and had two ceremonies in Depp's Los Angeles home and private island in the Bahamas.

May 2016: Divorce and legal proceedings

The Aquaman actress filed for divorce from Depp citing irreconcilable differences. She was granted a restraining order against him due to domestic abuse allegations.

Heard claimed that her estranged ex threw a cellphone during a fight, which hit her in the face. She submitted a photo to the court showing multiple bruises that were allegedly caused by the actor.

"During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me," Heard said in a sworn statement. “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 said she feared that Depp would return to their house unannounced to "terrorize me, physically and emotionally."

Depp denied these allegations, with his attorney Laura Wasser saying Heard "is attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse."

The couple would finalize their divorce in 2017.

2018: A lawsuit against The Sun and the explosive Washington Post op-ed

In June 2018, Depp sued News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun, for alleged libel over a headline published in April. The article, which mentions the actor by name, is titled "Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”

Later in December of that year, Heard published an op-ed in the Washington Post about experiencing abuse titled: "I spoke up against sexual violence—and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change."

“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," Heard wrote. “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.”

March 2019: Depp sues Heard for defamation

Despite the actress making no mention of his name in the article, Depp sued Heard for defamation for $50 million. His legal team argued that it contains a "clear implication that Mr. Depp is a domestic abuser."

Heard filed a $100 million countersuit against Depp in 2020, alleging he was orchestrating a "smear campaign" against her.

2020: Depp and The Sun go to court, Warner Bros. drops Depp from Fantastic Beasts

During the actor's court battle against The Sun, Heard testified before the London court, alleging Depp threatened to kill her "many times."

With evidence of photos, audio recordings, and his own text messages of 14 alleged incidents of violence in support of the column, Judge Andrew Nicol ruled in favor of the paper, saying its claims had shown to be "substantially true." 

In the midst of abuse allegations, Depp revealed that he was asked by Warner Bros. to resign from his role as Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. He starred in the Harry Potter prequel's first two films.

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    2021: Appealing a loss

    After losing the libel case against The Sun, Depp asked the Court of Appeals for permission to change the ruling but was denied.

    Justices James Dingemans and Nicholas Underhill said his appeal had "no real prospect of success."

    April 2022: Defamation trial begins

    On April 11, the defamation case between the former couple began in Fairfax, Virginia. 

    During his testimony, the 58-year-old actor acknowledged that he and Heard had arguments but denied resorting to violence.

    "Never did I myself reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way nor have I ever struck any woman in my life," he said, claiming Heard would insult and throw things at him.

    Depp claimed that Heard threw a bottle of vodka at him and "took [his] finger off" when she learned he was drinking during the filming of one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films in Australia. He also testified that his ex-wife or one of her friends defecated on their shared bed after a fight.

    On April 27, psychologist Shannon Curry, hired by Depp's lawyers, claimed that the 36-year-old actress suffers from borderline personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.

    Forensic psychologist Dawn Hughes testified on May 3 that Heard has post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from "intimate partner violence" from Depp.

    During their May 5 trial, Heard took the witness stand and recounted the instances of alleged physical abuse.

    "He was the love of my life," she said. "But he was also this other thing. And that other thing was awful."

    She said the first time he hit her was after she laughed at one of his tattoos. Depp was also jealous and suspicious of the actress' friends and accused her of affairs, she added.

    During a May 16 cross-examination, the Aquaman actress was asked about the incidents of alleged domestic violence and showed photos from subsequent days where no injuries were visible.

    "You should have seen how it looked under makeup," Heard told Depp's attorney Camille Vasquez.

    Amid the trial, those in the courtroom also noticed that Depp refused to look at his ex-wife. An audio recording played in court revealed the actor made a promise to his former partner in 2016 telling her, "You will not see my eyes again."

    Heard was asked after if she ever abused Depp. "I could never hurt Johnny," she claimed.

    Heard also told jurors that she didn't actually fulfill her pledge to donate her $7 million settlement from their divorce. It was supposed to go to the American Civil Liberties Union and a children's hospital in California. She said she hasn't fulfilled the promise because "Johnny sued me."