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Expert disputes Depp’s story about severed finger

Witnesses and attorneys sparred over details in the actor’s defamation case against his ex-wife.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Throughout five long weeks of trial, one story has surfaced over and again: Johnny Depp contends that he severed a finger when his then wife, Amber Heard, hurled a vodka bottle at him.

But during testimony Monday, an orthopedic surgeon and expert witness took issue with Depp’s account.

Depp's story, told under oath, revolves around a volatile argument he had with Heard in 2015, while the two were in Australia for the filming of the fifth installment of "Pirates of the Caribbean." In Depp's telling, his finger was severed by the bottle, thrown by Heard at an angle.

Richard Moore, a North Carolina-based orthopedic physician who specializes in hand injuries, examined medical evidence and photos of Depp's injury. During his testimony, Moore raised doubts that the finger could have been injured as Depp described.

The doctor's testimony launched the sixth week of a trial initiated by a Depp's lawsuit, which claims he was defamed by an op-ed published in The Washington Post in December 2018. In the article, Heard recounted that she had become a public figure representing domestic abuse two years earlier — which would have been 2016, while she was married to Depp.

The piece never mentioned Depp. Even so, Depp says that Heard was referring to him, and as a result, he lost his part in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. The lawsuit, filed in March 2019, asks for $50 million in damages and asserts that Depp was actually the victim of abuse. Specifically, Depp's attorneys noted the actor's claims that he severed his finger when Heard threw a bottle at him.

That account is improbable, according to Moore. As the doctor's testimony began, Bejamin Rottenborn, one of Heard's lawyers, asked, "Based on your analysis, did Mr. Depp's finger injury happen as the result of a vodka bottle being thrown at him?"

"No," Moore responded.

Depp's report of the bottle severing his finger "is not consistent with what we see in the described injury pattern or in the clinical photographs," he explained.

The actor's hand was flat on the bar, "maybe even curled over the edge," Moore said. That sort of attack would have injured Depp's fingernail. But photos of the severed finger show the nail intact.

In cross-examination, Camille Vasquez, one of Depp's attorneys, questioned whether Moore had considered all of the evidence. Moore was called as an expert witness to review records. "Is it fair to say that you have no personal knowledge as to how Mr. Depp injured his finger in Australia, correct?" she asked. "You also never personally examined Mr. Depp's finger, did you?"

Moore answered no to both questions.

Other expert witnesses called by Heard's attorneys also testified throughout the day, including David Spiegel, a Norfolk, Virginia-based psychiatrist, who said that Depp exhibited traits of substance abuse disorder "as well as consistent behaviors for someone who is a perpetrator of intimate partner violence."

Spiegel described a pattern of abuse and contrition. For Depp, “It was almost routine, that after it was said and done, he would apologize for letting this monster out, letting this anger out,” he testified.  

Heard has also filed a counterclaim asking for $100 million in damage. Another witness, entertainment industry analyst Kathryn Arnold, testified about the financial impact of the case.

Depp had an extraordinary career over many years, starting in the 1980s and 1990s, Arnold remarked. His career issues, she said, had to do with his erratic behavior along with attention brought on by lawsuits revolving around him.  

The film "Aquaman," in which Heard starred, was a blockbuster. After the film’s success, Heard should have been able to renegotiate her contract for the sequel to make more money. But she didn’t. Negative publicity — including tweets which Heard’s lawyers contend were driven by Depp and one of his lawyers — resulted in Heard’s prospects cooling.

It could take Heard three to five years to rehabilitate her career, according to Arnold, who estimated Heard’s losses at $45 million during a five-year period.   

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