Laurel Avis Anderson’s testimony was played for jurors on the third day of the US$50 million (approx. $64.4 million) defamation trial underway in Fairfax, Virginia. Depp has sued Heard for publishing an op-ed in 2018 in which she alluded to domestic violence claims that she first made in the context of their 2016 divorce.
Anderson testified via video deposition in February, and the video was played for the jury on Thursday morning. Anderson said she saw the couple several times between October and December 2015, and that the sessions could be stormy – with both of them threatening to walk out at times.
Anderson said Heard reported that Depp had been violent toward her. She also said both parties could initiate fights, as Heard feared abandonment from Depp. She also said Depp had not been violent with other partners over the prior 20-30 years.
“I thought he had been well controlled,” Anderson said. “With Ms. Heard, he was triggered. They engaged in what I saw as mutual abuse.”
She also testified that Depp denied being violent. Anderson said Heard could also be triggered when she felt disrespected, and would sometimes hit him first.
In counselling sessions, Heard would often interrupt while Depp tended to be more reticent, she said.
“Ms. Heard had a jackhammer style of talking. She was very amped up,” she said. “He had trouble talking at a similar pace.”
Anderson also testified that the couple did not communicate and had “terrible skills.” She said Heard reported in a phone session on December 15, 2015, that she did not want to get a divorce, but that she “wanted to want to” get a divorce.
“She loved him. He loved her,” Anderson testified. “She believed that she wasn’t stupid. She knew what they were doing wasn’t healthy.”
In the same session, she said Heard talked about a strategy for getting out of the relationship. Her therapy notes state: “Will she have advantage if she leaves him, but files with police for abuse first?”
Anderson said that on December 17, 2015, Heard came to her office and showed her bruises under her eyes.
Anderson recalled a conversation with Depp in June 2016, in which Depp was looking back on the relationship after it had ended. Depp said the relationship was “chaotic” and “violent,” and that Heard “gave as good as she got.”
“I agreed,” Anderson said. “She initiated fights. She started violence. She rose to the challenge if he started first. In my opinion that had been established throughout the relationship – that she fought as hard as he did. And he tried to deescalate far more than I think she did.”
Heard has alleged that Depp would punch her, kick her, head-butt her, grab clumps of her hair and, on one occasion, sexually assaulted her with a liquor bottle. Depp has denied those allegations, and accused her of assaulting him. Heard has countersued Depp for US$100 million (approx. $134.8 million), alleging that his attorney defamed her when he alleged that she had orchestrated a “hoax.”
The trial is expected to last six weeks, and both Depp and Heard are expected to testify.
The jury has heard from five witnesses thus far, including Depp’s sister, Christi Dembrowski, and Heard’s former assistant, Kate James, both of whom said they did not witness violence between the couple. Two of the witnesses – James and Depp’s friend, Isaac Baruch – had already testified in the 2020 defamation trial in the U.K.
In that case, a judge rejected Depp’s defamation claim against the publisher of The Sun newspaper, which had described Depp as a “wife beater,” concluding that Heard’s allegations were “substantially true.”
If you need someone to talk to about domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT or visit White Ribbon Australia’s website. In an emergency, call 000.
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