Johnny Depp has exhibited behaviours that are “consistent” with someone who is a “perpetrator of intimate partner violence”, a psychiatrist called by the Amber Heard defence team has testified.
Dr David Spiegel took the stand in the couple’s defamation trial on Monday and offered damning testimony about Mr Depp’s mental state.
Perhaps the most harsh moment came when he told jurors: “Mr Depp has behaviours that are consistent with someone that both has substance use disorder as well as behaviours of someone who is a perpetrator of intimate partner violence.”
Dr Spiegel acknowledged that he did not interview Mr Depp directly, because his two requests to do so were denied by the actor’s lawyers.
Instead, he drew conclusions after reviewing Mr Depp’s depositions and other materials in the case, saying he saw many signs of impairment from excessive use of drugs and alcohol.
Asked if he believes Mr Depp’s substance abuse impaired his ability to perform as an actor, Dr Spiegel said he is aware of Mr Depp using an earpiece for lines and saying that he did a movie “entirely wasted”.
He said he believes Mr Depp’s “thinking rate” is down and his attention and memory are impaired, noting that drugs and alcohol “will make us disinhibited and will make us act out, in a lot of different ways”, including “intimate partner violence”.
“We all get angry with people … But when our brain is functioning well, we don’t act it out,” he said.
“When we have the effects of alcohol, we have disinhibition … so we can no longer interpret what’s in front of you, what’s right and wrong, what we should act on and what we shouldn’t act on.”
Mr Spiegel described combining substance abuse with intimate partner violence as “playing with fire”.
In a tense cross-examination, Dr Spiegel and Mr Depp’s lawyer sparred over the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater Rule, which says that psychiatrists should not give professional opinions about public figures that they have not examined in person.
The court previously heard testimony about Mr Depp’s mental state from his psychiatrist Dr Alan Blaustein, who described the actor as being “paranoid” and said he admitted to having a “very chaotic” relationship with “lots of anger” toward Ms Heard.
“Lots of anger in both places and high intensity… A lot of love, a lot of disappointment, a lot of fears.”
He added: “Part of his goal of therapy was to work through the anger that he and his fiancee had toward each other.”
Dr Blaustein, who met with Mr Depp 18 times between October 2014 and January 2015, testified that the Pirates actor “expressed having anger towards Amber” and “feelings of jealousy”.
He told him that there had been “rage and chaos” in other relationships prior to his relationship with Ms Heard, including with the mother of his children Vanessa Paradis.
Reading from his notes taken from a 2 October 2014 phone consultation, he said Mr Depp told him there were “arguments about child care” with Ms Paradis.
In the same conversation, he said Mr Depp also spoke about abuse as a child.
He did not talk about abuse with Ms Heard but did say that she was “such a pain in the ass”, the psychiatrist testified, recalling from his notes.
“The relationship he was in reminded him of his relationship with his psychotic sister and his mom,” he said of Mr Depp.
Dr Blaustein said Mr Depp said he had anxiety and also questioned if he had bipolar disorder.
Mr Depp also had substance dependence issues with marijuana, alcohol and opiates including oxycontin, he testified.
“His drug use, turning to drugs helped relieve the psychic pain he was experiencing,” he testified.
There were points during the time that he saw Mr Depp that he was in what he called “relative sobriety” – saying it was relative as he said Mr Depp always used marijuana – but then there were some instances of “breakthrough usage” of other drugs and alcohol.
He said he spoke to Mr Depp about how the drugs he was using cause “brain changes” over time.
He recalled one particular exercise where Mr Depp would be given three words to remember and was then distracted by other conversations. After five minutes, he would then be asked to recall the words.
The doctor said that Mr Depp was unable to do so.
Mr Depp also spoke of feelings of “paranoia, fear, envy” and about “fighting the devil” which he said, “was a representation of a battle with himself”.
The defamation trial between Mr Depp and Ms Heard is now in its sixth week in Fairfax, Virginia. Mr Depp’s lawsuit against his ex-wife claims she defamed him in a December 2018 op-ed published in The Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”.
In her op-ed, Ms Heard wrote that “like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age. But I kept quiet — I did not expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn’t see myself as a victim”.
“Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” she added at the time.
While Mr Depp isn’t named in the piece, his legal team argues that it contains a “clear implication that Mr Depp is a domestic abuser”, which they say is “categorically and demonstrably false”. Mr Depp is seeking damages of “not less than $50m”.
Ms Heard has filed a $100m counterclaim against Mr Depp for nuisance and immunity from his allegations.