'Let's burn Amber': Lawyers interrogate Johnny Depp over texts

ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy reports on the continued cross-examination of Johnny Depp.

Amber Heard's lawyers continued their cross-examination of ex-husband, Johnny Depp, in a Virginia courtroom on Thursday, taking aim at his alcohol and drug use and texts he sent to a friend about wanting to kill and defile his then-wife.

Heard's lawyers are trying to derail Depp's libel lawsuit against her after she wrote a 2018 Washington Post opinion piece that Depp says indirectly defamed him and ruined his lucrative acting career. 

In the article, Heard referred to herself as a "public figure representing domestic abuse."

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Depp has testified that his ex-wife was the aggressor in their relationship and that he never physically or sexually assaulted her, despite her claims to the contrary. 

Heard's lawyers argue that Depp can't deny what happened because he was often drunk and high on drugs to the point of blacking out.

One of Miss Heard's lawyers, J. Benjamin Rottenborn, focused on a 2013 text exchange between Depp and the actor Paul Bettany in which Depp said: "Let's burn Amber!!!"

Texts between Depp and actor Paul Bettany were the focus of Amber Heard's lawyers cross-examination. Credit: PA

Bettany responded: "Having thought it through I don't think we should burn Amber..."

Depp texted: "Let's drown her before we burn her!!! I will (expletive) her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she's dead."

Mr Depp had previously apologised to the jury for the language used in the texts.

And said that "in the heat of the pain I was feeling, I went to dark places."

Rottenborn also focused on another of Depp's texts to Bettany in 2014, in which he referenced whisky, pills and powders.

The texts were sent during a period in which Depp said he had stopped drinking. 

And they were sent around the time of a private flight from Boston to Los Angeles, during which Miss Heard had said that Mr Depp became blackout intoxicated and assaulted her.

Mr Rottenborn presented texts that Mr Depp sent to Mr Bettany that said he drank "all night before I picked Amber up to fly to LA this past Sunday … Ugly, mate … No food for days … Powders … Half a bottle of whisky, a thousand red bull and vodkas, pills, 2 bottles of Champers on plane…"

Mr Depp during his cross-examination on Thursday. Credit: AP

Mr Depp had previously testified that he took two oxycodone pills — an opiate to which he admits he was addicted at the time — and locked himself in the plane bathroom, and fell asleep to avoid her badgering. 

He had also testified that he drank only a single glass of Champagne as he boarded the plane.

Attempting to bring doubt to Mr Depp's claim that he was not a problematic drinker at that time, Miss Heard's lawyer then showed the jury a text that Depp had sent to musician Patti Smith regarding a visit to New York City in 2014 in which he recounted fighting with Heard, getting drunk and being "so disappointed in myself."

The actor has spent much of that time on the stand describing the couple's volatile relationship and denying that he ever abused Heard.

Depp said that Heard often violently attacked him. 

And he argued that his movie career suffered after she wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post back in 2018.

Miss Heard never mentioned Depp by name in the article, but Depp's lawyers said it referred to accusations Heard made when she sought a 2016 restraining order against him.

Depp said the accusations and the article contributed to an unfairly ruined reputation, turning him from "Cinderella to Quasimodo" and costing him his role in the lucrative "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise.

When cross-examination began late Wednesday afternoon, Rottenborn pointed to evidence that Disney had decided months before the article's publication.

Heard's lawyers have argued that Heard's opinion piece was accurate and did not defame him.

They have said that Depp's ruined reputation was due to his own bad behaviour.

On Tuesday, Depp called the accusations of drug addiction "grossly embellished," though he acknowledged taking many drugs. He said his drug use started at age 11 when he secretly took his mother's "nerve pills."

Mr Depp denies any abuse.

Ms Heard scheduled to testify later in the trial being held at Fairfax County District Courthouse.