Amber Heard was expected to be the first witness to testify in her defense, but her legal team made a last-minute change Monday. Her team, led by Elaine Bredehoft and Ben Rottenborn, will call psychologist Dr. Dawn Hughes to the stand on Tuesday before Heard. The Aquaman actress and her ex-husband Johnny Depp are in the middle of a defamation trial.
Hughes will give testimony on Tuesday to start the defense's case, sources told Deadline. Monday. Heard was expected to be her defense's first witness, but her lawyers chose a different way to begin. Hughes' testimony could counter testimony from psychologist Dr. Shannon Curry, who was called to the stand by Depp's team on April 26. Heard's representatives did not comment on the decision.
Hughes is cited as an expert in "treating victims of intimate partner violence." She also evaluated Heard and is expected to discuss the results and Heard's mental health, sources told Deadline. Her testimony could contradict what Curry told the jury and Judge Penny Azcarate. Curry claimed Heard had Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder, but Heard's attorneys noted this opinion was only made after a single 12-hour session with Heard last year. Heard's attorneys also noted that Curry's opinions were almost the same as what Depp said about Heard in recorded arguments between the two stars.
The strategy shift is not unheard of during a trial, but Heard did make a surprise move late last week. She fired public relations firm Precision Strategies because she was frustrated with the negative press she got while Depp's team made their case, sources told Page Six. Heard hired Shane Communications, led by David Shane, who worked with The Management Company when Depp sued them for fraud in 2017. (That case ended abruptly in July 2018 with a confidential settlement before trial.)
Depp's team still had witnesses to call on Monday at the Fairfax County, Virginia courthouse. The actor's talent manager, Jack Whigham, testified via video link that Depp had a $22.5 million deal with Disney to star in a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film. However, Whigham later told Bredehoft that "it would be fair to say I have not seen a document" confirming Depp joined Pirates 6, and she never saw "$22.5 million written on a page." Whigham tried to blame Depp's former lawyer, Jacob Bloom, whom Depp sued successfully over making millions on the actor's movie deals. Depp's team has claimed his career was "destroyed" after Heard's 2018 Washington Post op-ed was published.
Travis McGivern, another Depp security guard, also took the stand on Monday. He claimed Heard allegedly threw a Red Bull can at Depp in March 2015 during an argument at their Los Angeles home. McGivern claimed Heard hit Depp with a "closed fist" during the dispute. McGivern also spoke about Depp's drug use, claiming that cocaine "levels him out."
Depp filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard over her 2018 Washington Post op-ed. Although she did not name Depp in the piece, she wrote about being a domestic violence survivor. Depp has claimed the allegations are not true. In 2020, Heard counter-sued Depp for $100 million. The lawsuit was filed in Fairfax County, Virginia, where The Washington Post's online servers are located. The trial finally started on April 11 and is expected to last five weeks. Next week, the proceedings will be on hold while Azcarate attends a previously scheduled conference.