Chauvin trial day 4

The State opened the day with the testimony of George Floyd girl friend Courteney Ross. She discussed her relationship with Floyd dating to the day in August 2017 that he asked asked her how she was doing when she was waiting in the lobby of Harbor Lights to visit her son’s father. She recalled Floyd asking her, “Sis, you okay, Sis?” She said she wasn’t and he asked if he could pray with her. Floyd was working at Harbor Lights as a security guard.

Ross was called to provide so-called “spark of life” evidence regarding Floyd. Such evidence is admissible in a murder case to provide a human portrait of the victim. In this case it presents one more factor contributing to the prejudice Chauvin must overcome to have his case determined on the facts.

The State also used Ross’s testimony to raise the issue of Floyd’s drug use in sympathetic form. Both Ross and Floyd struggled with opiate addictions in the course of their relationship. She said that they both suffered from chronic pain and started with prescription opiates. They consumed illegally obtained oxycontin and oxycodone together off and on throughout their relationship.

On his fateful trip to Cup Foods Floyd was accompanied by Morries Hall (the man in red) and Shawanda Hall (the woman in the back seat). I take it from Ross’s testimony that they were Floyd’s suppliers. Earlier this week Morries Hall filed a notice that, if called as a witness, he would assert the Fifth Amendment.

In March 2020 Ross saw Floyd’s behavior change to reflect current drug use use. They took bigger pills that month that had a stimulative effect on her. In early March she found him doubled over in pain, complaining that his stomach hurt. He was suffering an overdose — she apparently told the FBI it was a heroin overdose — requiring some five days in the hospital. Ross noticed foam around his mouth as she drove him to the hospital.

Floyd was using again in May 2020. The May pills had the same effect on her as the big pills they had previously consumed.

Ross was followed by three witnesses who provided emergency medical services to Floyd on May 25: Seth Bravinder, Derek Smith, and Jeremy Norton. What I got out of these witnesses in excruciating detail is that Floyd was dead when he was picked up at the scene and that efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. He had no pulse from the first time he was checked at the scene.

The State closed the day with retired Minneapolis police sergeant David Pleoger. I take it that Pleoger is one of the many Minneapolis officers who retired in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.

Pleoger is an important witness. He was the shift leader when Floyd died and took the call from Jenna Scurry asking about the use of force she observed on her monitor in the dispatch center. Pleoger evaluated use of force under department policy as a routine part of his job. He went to the scene and interacted with the officers both at the scene and at Hennepin County Medical Center, where Floyd had been taken. Floyd’s death, however, elevated the case to superior authorities.

On Pleoger’s bodycam Chauvin is heard speaking with Pleoger about the incident at the scene: “Not really, but had to hold the guy down, he was going crazy. Wouldn’t go in the back of the squad.” Chauvin did not immediately disclose that he placed his knee on Floyd’s neck.

Schleicher elicited Pleoger’s opinion concerning the moment when the use of force against Floyd should have ended. He replied: “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.” Pleoger agreed with Schleicer that it should have ended when Floyd was handcuffed and on the ground.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher got the answers he wanted from Pleoger, but I thought his testimony was hedged in tone and unenthusiastic. The words came out right, but something was off.

I have posted the full video of Pleoger’s testimony below. The testimony begins at about 15:00. The testimony referred to immediately above comes at about about 01:21:00.

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