Johnny Depp Kicked Amber Heard During Fight Over James Franco, Psychologist Testifies

Dr. Dawn Hughes, a clinical and forensic psychologist, took the stand to testify about Amber Heard's allegations of sexual violence against Johnny Depp

A clinical psychologist testified that Johnny Depp "kicked" Amber Heard "in the back" during a fight over James Franco.

Dr. Dawn Hughes, a clinical and forensic psychologist, was the first witness brought by Heard's legal team as they began their defense Tuesday in Fairfax, Virginia in Depp's ongoing defamation trial against ex-wife Heard.

Hughes gave an opposite professional analysis than the forensic psychologist brought to the stand by Depp's team last week, who said Heard had no signs of PTSD. Instead, Hughes said the actress does have post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by what she called the "intimate partner violence by Mr. Depp."

Hughes looked at Heard's medical records, past depositions and met with the actress four times in person and twice via Zoom, totaling about 29 hours. She also interviewed some of Heard's treating physicians and the star's late mom Paige.

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During her testimony, Hughes detailed Depp's alleged outburst on a May 2014 flight from Boston to Los Angeles over Heard's relationship with Franco.

Heard, 36, and Franco, 44, became acquainted while shooting the film The Adderall Diaries in New York City over 2014.

Amber Heard Says James Franco Asked About Face Bruises After Alleged Altercation with Johnny Depp
Amber Heard, James Franco, Johnny Depp. Phillip Faraone/Getty; Matt Winkelmeyer/BAFTA LA/Getty; Daniele Venturelli/WireImage

"Ms. Heard and Mr. Depp were going to fly back to L.A. and spend the weekend together. They were shooting at different sites," Hughes said on the stand. "Ms. Heard is on the plane, waiting for Mr. Depp to come on. He's reportedly sitting in the SUV smoking weed and drinking. She is filming with James Franco at this point."

"He gets on the plane and starts talking about James Franco, making a lot of derogatory comments about her. 'Hope you had fun with your escapades' and some more inflammatory language," she continued. "Then in an argument when she got up to leave, he kicked her in the back. She went forward on the plane, to the front of the plane."

Hughes also described other incidents of alleged sexual assault by Depp while on the stand. Hughes said Heard claimed that he digitally penetrated her more than once and that he, at one time, penetrated her with a liquor bottle. Heard told Hughes that Depp would have alcohol-fueled "rage" that often led to these acts, according to Hughes' testimony.

Amber Heard listens in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Fairfax, Virginia

"There are indications, as I've mentioned before, of the sexual assault and the sexual abuse, and how he would, when he was angry and when he was drunk — it was mostly drug- and alcohol-fueled rage when he would throw her on the bed and try to have sex with her," said Hughes. "Then, you know, if he was not able to perform, he would get more angry at her and blame her. We have this dynamic of blaming her for his inability to take responsibility for his behavior."

Heard's therapists were concerned for her safety, said Hughes, and the actress sometimes "fought back." She also testified that Heard engaged in psychological aggression and that "she was very ashamed and remorseful about that," as well as some reactive violence.

Hughes said, based on Heard's therapists' notes, "There were times when [Depp] forced her to give him oral sex when he was angry. These weren't in loving moments; they were angry moments, moments of dominance, moments of him trying to get control over her."

One time, after Depp, 58, accused Heard of flirting with someone while on an outing in Hicksville, California, "Mr. Depp performed a 'cavity search' and ostensibly was looking for drugs and felt it acceptable to rip off her nightgown and stick his fingers up her vagina to look for cocaine and thought maybe she was hiding it there," said Hughes.

"There was another incident in the Bahamas where, when he got angry, he took his fingers and he put them in her vagina and moved her around violently in the closet," she continued, adding, "And, of course, the incident in Australia — one of the most severe instances of sexual violence that Ms. Heard had to endure — when he was beating her and choking her and telling her, 'I'm going to f-----g kill you. I hate you.' ... He grabbed a bottle that was on the bar and penetrated her with that bottle."

Hughes said, "Ms. Heard reported to me of dissociating and going outside of her body. The only thing she was thinking is, 'Oh God, I hope it's not the broken one."

Actor Johnny Depp testifies during his defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, April 21, 2022. - Depp is suing ex-wife Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse. US actress Amber Heard speaks to her attorney at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on April 19, 2022. - US actor Johnny Depp is suing ex-wife Heard for libel after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse.

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Depp is suing Heard for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post about surviving domestic violence, though she never mentioned Depp by name in the article. The Pirates of the Caribbean actor originally filed the $50 million lawsuit in March 2019.

Depp, who has said multiple times under oath that he has never struck Heard or any woman, has testified that his "goal is the truth" as he seeks to clear his name in the trial, which is being televised live via various outlets. Ahead of the trial, Heard said in a statement that "hopefully when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny. I have always maintained a love for Johnny and it brings me great pain to have to live out the details of our past life together in front of the world."

Back in November 2020, Depp lost his highly publicized U.K. libel lawsuit case against British tabloid The Sun for calling him a "wife-beater." The court upheld the outlet's claims as being "substantially true" and Heard testified to back up the claims. In March 2021, his attempt to overturn the decision was overruled.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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