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Johnny Depp libel trial: Amber Heard testifies

‘Aquaman’ actress Amber Heard told jurors in a defamation case on Monday that she filed for divorce from Johnny Depp in 2016 because she feared she wouldn’t survive physical abuse from him.

When questioned by her lawyers, Heard said she took the plunge after the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ star threw a cellphone at her which hit her in the face. The incident made her realize the marriage was “falling apart” despite her attempts to fix it, she said.

“I knew I had to leave him,” she said. “I knew I wouldn’t survive it if I didn’t.

“I have made the decision to file for divorce,” she added. “It was hard because I loved Johnny so much.”

Jurors saw pictures of Heard with redness and swelling on her face that she said was caused by being hit by the phone.

At this point in their marriage, “abuse was now normal and not the exception,” Heard said.

In earlier testimony, Depp said he never hit Heard or any woman and maintained that she was the aggressor in their relationship.

Depp, 58, is suing Heard, 36, for $50 million, claiming she defamed him when she claimed to have been the victim of domestic violence. Heard sued for $100 million, arguing that Depp defamed her by calling her a liar.

The couple married in February 2015 and their divorce was finalized about two years later.

Heard said Depp threw the phone at him during a May 2016 argument at a Los Angeles penthouse he owned. The episode is one of several Heard has described in which she said Depp assaulted her.

In his testimony, Depp said Heard was the violent one, and in early 2015 he threw a bottle of vodka that cut the top of his right middle finger.

Heard denied cutting off Depp’s finger and said she only hit it to defend herself or her sister.

She also denied Depp’s allegation that she left feces in a bed in one of her homes following a fight on her birthday. A security guard had testified that Heard had told him that the feces were a “horrible prank”.

Heard said she didn’t pull any pranks that day, adding that she was “in no mood for pranks”.

“I had just been assaulted on my 30th birthday by my husband, whom I was desperately in love with and knew I had to leave,” she said.

The court 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 attorney told jurors it was clear Heard was referring to 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 has been put on hold, and Depp has been replaced in the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise, a “Harry Potter” spin-off.

Heard’s lawyers argued that she had spoken the truth and that her opinion was protected by free speech under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Oral arguments are scheduled for May 27.

Less than two years ago, Depp lost a libel case against the Sun, a British tabloid that called him a “wife beater”. A High Court judge in London ruled that he repeatedly assaulted Heard.

Depp’s attorneys filed the case in Fairfax County, Va., because The Washington Post is printed there. The newspaper is not accused.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Alistair Bell, Mark Porter and Jonathan Oatis)

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