Courtney Ross, girlfriend of George Floyd, at the trial of Derek Chauvin (FOX 9 / YouTube via MSR)
By Mel Reeves
“We fully expected the defense to put George’s character and struggles with addiction on trial because that is the go-to tactic when the facts are not on your side,” wrote Ben Crump in a statement Thursday.
The prosecution beat the defense to the punch as they called George Floyd’s girlfriend Courtney Ross to the stand. Ross spoke lovingly of their relationship as she fought back tears. She lit up as she recalled their time together and how they first met when he worked security at the Salvation Army. After noticing that she seemed to be distressed, he asked her, “Can I pray with you?”
She let the proverbial cat out of the bag when she admitted that she and George both suffered from drug addiction. “We both struggled from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck and his was in his back,” she said explaining how they both got addicted to pain killers and opioids.
“We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times,” she said. She called their opioid addiction “a classic American story.” Through Ross, Floyd’s drug addiction was humanized. According to pool reports, she seemed to connect with the jurors.
Ross also admitted that she was aware that Floyd had overdosed in March of last year and spent five days in the hospital. She told of some particularly strong drugs that Floyd had obtained that she had taken as well, which packed a punch.
During cross-examination, she told the defense attorney that Floyd had accessed these same powerful drugs in May not long before he was killed. The direction Nelson was going was clear. Yet, Ross also established that Floyd had built up a tolerance to the drugs, something the prosecution could use to counter the defense’s claim that he died of an overdose.
One of the odd things that came out in her testimony was that the FBI, which was supposed to be investigating the case for civil rights violations, was looking into Floyd’s drug use.
Hennepin County EMS Seth Zachary Bravinder testified that he was aware that Floyd was dead at the scene and told his partner as much. He said they put Floyd in the ambulance to use different methods to revive him. Under cross-examination, he was asked if “at any point in time did Floyd come back to life” and the paramedic gave an emphatic, “no.”
Bravinder’s partner Derek Smith was asked what he thought about Floyd’s condition when he got on the scene. He replied, “In lay terms, I thought he was dead.” During his testimony, Smith also revealed that he was the one who took the handcuffs off of Floyd in the ambulance.
During cross-examination, Nelson seemed to be leading Smith to say that he preferred his partner to take over chest compressions for former Officer Thomas Lane, who rode in the ambulance with Floyd. Smith replied flatly, “Any layperson can do chest compressions—there is no reason Minneapolis couldn’t have started chest compressions.” Nelson did not seem pleased with his answer.
During his testimony, Smith also said that he kept attempting to resuscitate Floyd because “he is a human being and I was trying to give a second chance at life.”
Parts of today’s proceedings were quite morbid and macabre as Floyd’s lifeless body was shown while in the ambulance.
The paramedic confirmed what we could see on the police body camera, that he actually had to tap Chauvin to get him to take his knee off Floyd’s neck and that even while he was trying to take Floyd’s pulse his knee was still on his neck.
The press pool reporter indicated that several jurors were really engaged in the last hour of the day in which the defense and prosecution debated over the term “use of force” and how much and how long it should be applied.
Defense attorney Nelson continued with his theme that the bystanders were rowdy and even suggested that they were threatening and a threat. Nelson not-so-subtly made the point that the cops had to choose between dealing with the threat that was the crowd and Floyd as well.
There was lots of back and forth between the prosecution and defense about what constituted the proper of use of force when now-retired MPD Sergeant David Ploeger, who supervised Chauvin, said, “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.”