By Lisa Richwine
-Actress Amber Heard took the witness stand for the first time on Wednesday in the U.S. defamation case brought by her former husband Johnny Depp, saying it was painful to relive the couple’s relationship in the courtroom.
In the first weeks of the trial in Virginia, Depp testified that Heard was physically and verbally abusive to him, and jurors heard audio recordings of arguments between couple. Heard had looked on silently, at times wincing or holding back tears.
“This has been the most painful and difficult thing I’ve ever gone through,” Heard said at the start of her testimony.
Earlier, a psychologist testified that she believed the actress suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder due to physical and sexual abuse by Depp.
The 58-year-old Depp, star of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and others, is suing Heard, 36, for $50 million, saying she defamed him when she claimed she was a victim of domestic abuse. Heard has counter-sued for $100 million, saying Depp smeared her by calling her a liar.
Over four days of sworn testimony, Depp said that Heard, known for films including “Aquaman,” was the abuser and once threw a vodka bottle that severed the top of his right middle finger.
“At the end, I was broken,” Depp said.
Heard has denied injuring Depp’s finger and said she only threw things to escape when he was beating her.
The case hinges on a December 2018 opinion piece she authored 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 after less than two years of marriage.
Depp, once among the biggest stars in Hollywood, said he never struck Heard or any woman and that 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.
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.
A state court judge in Virginia’s Fairfax County, outside the nation’s capital, is overseeing the trial, which is expected to last until late May.
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.
Depp’s lawyers have said they filed the U.S. case in Fairfax County because the Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not a defendant.