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Witnesses Continue To Testify As Derek Chauvin Trial Nears End Of First Week


An overwhelming sense of helplessness - that's what came through during testimony this week from people who saw Derek Chauvin put his knee on George Floyd's neck. Another witness told the jury about her own grief. Courteney Ross was George Floyd's girlfriend. She cried yesterday as she talked about her relationship with Floyd and the moment they met.


COURTENEY ROSS: This kind person, just to come up to me and say, can I pray with you? - when I felt alone - it was so sweet.

MARTIN: Paramedics who treated George Floyd and Derek Chauvin's supervisor also took the stand. Testimony continues this morning. NPR's Cheryl Corley is in Minneapolis covering this trial, and she joins us this morning.

Hi, Cheryl.


MARTIN: Let's begin with Derek Chauvin's shift supervisor and now-retired Minneapolis Police Sergeant David Ploeger. What did his testimony reveal?

CORLEY: Well, Ploeger really gave us an inside look at the use-of-force policy that Minneapolis police should abide by. For example, according to that policy, officers are supposed to put restrained subjects on their side to help with breathing. And he said that it might be reasonable to put a knee on someone's neck briefly or to use force to restrain someone. And prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked him for more of an explanation.


STEVEN SCHLEICHER: Once the person - once the subject is handcuffed and no longer resisting, at that point, the restraint should stop.


CORLEY: And Ploeger also said he had a phone conversation with Derek Chauvin after George Floyd was taken to the hospital. He didn't mention that he had put his knee on Floyd's neck or for how long. But a lot of the conversation was about the police department's use-of-force policy, like when to report use of force, who reviews cases, what type of training is provided.

MARTIN: What about the paramedics who responded to the scene and treated George Floyd? How did they characterize the situation they observed?

CORLEY: Well, they said that they didn't see any signs that George Floyd was breathing or moving, and it appeared he was in cardiac arrest. One of those paramedics, Derek Smith, said that he checked for a pulse, couldn't find one, and he just basically thought Floyd was dead. But they transported Floyd to a hospital even so and continued to work on him. Smith said they were trying to give him a second chance at life.

MARTIN: We played a little clip earlier of Courteney Ross's testimony, George Floyd's girlfriend. Can you tell us more about her moment on the stand?

CORLEY: Yeah. She really began by talking about how she met George Floyd, as you mentioned, at that shelter where he was a security guard. That was in 2017. That's one of her favorite stories, she said.


ROSS: I like to say his voice dropped, like, two levels, even though it was deep already. And he asked me if he could get my number. And we had our first kiss in the lobby. And that's when our relationship started.

CORLEY: You know, Ross's testimony was part of the prosecution's effort to give the jury just a fuller picture of George Floyd in what's called spark-of-life testimony. So Ross talked about how Floyd liked to work out, lifting weights and doing all types of exercises, his love for sports. But prosecutors also had her talk about how she and Floyd struggled with opioid drug addiction, which she called a classic story.


ROSS: We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck, and his was in his back. We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times.

CORLEY: And so prosecutors essentially trying to get the jump on any talk about Floyd's drug use - the defense, of course, has argued that it was drugs, along with Floyd's underlying health conditions, that were actually the cause of his death.

MARTIN: And the trial continues this morning. NPR's Cheryl Corley, reporting from Minneapolis, thank you so much.

CORLEY: You're quite welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley
Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.