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Takeaways From Day Four of the Derek Chauvin Trial

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The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd in Minneapolis, entered a new phase on Thursday with the testimony of paramedics who responded to the scene, making it the first time that jurors heard about Mr. Floyd’s medical condition in the immediate aftermath of the arrest.

Their testimony supported the notion that Mr. Floyd died under the knee of Mr. Chauvin. Two paramedics, Derek Smith and Seth Bravinder, said they did not see any signs of life in Mr. Floyd upon their arrival. Mr. Smith was explicit: “In lay terms, I thought he was dead.”

The jury also heard from Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend, who talked about his struggle with drug addiction, as well as from a former police sergeant who arrived at the scene shortly after the arrest. Here are Thursday’s key moments.

  • Until Thursday, testimony has come mostly from witnesses who happened upon the arrest of Mr. Floyd by chance. While those witnesses provided powerful testimony on the arrest — and on the emotional scars it left on them — they were unable to speak with authority about Mr. Floyd’s medical condition. The lineup of witnesses on Thursday changed that. The questions of when Mr. Floyd died, and how, will be crucial to the jury’s ultimate decision. Though the two paramedics who testified on Thursday did not comment on what exactly killed Mr. Floyd, they provided new information on the key question of when.

  • Mr. Smith, one of two paramedics to testify on Thursday, said Mr. Floyd had no pulse and appeared to be dead by the time they arrived. Mr. Smith’s efforts to save Mr. Floyd, including the use of a defibrillator, were unsuccessful. His testimony could support the prosecution’s argument that the actions of Mr. Chauvin killed Mr. Floyd. The defense has suggested that drug use contributed to his death; an autopsy found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system. Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s attorney, also suggested during Mr. Smith’s testimony that Mr. Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s back, not on his neck. In his response, Mr. Smith referred Mr. Nelson to videos of the arrest.

  • Courteney Ross, Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend for nearly three years, told the jury about his character and his struggle with addiction. She talked about their first kiss and Mr. Floyd’s adventurous nature. In a lighter moment, she talked about one of the most famous photos of Mr. Floyd, which she called “a dad selfie.” She called Mr. Floyd a “mama’s boy,” and said that his mother’s death left him “like a shell of himself, like he was broken.” Mr. Floyd called out “mama” while police officers pinned him to the ground. Ms. Ross also detailed their shared struggle with opioid addiction, saying that they started using after being prescribed medication for chronic pain. Once their prescriptions ran out, their use continued. Together, they fell in and out of sobriety. Mr. Floyd’s use of drugs, and whether that contributed to his death, is expected to be a crucial point of the trial.

  • The jury also heard from David Pleoger, a recently retired sergeant with the Minneapolis Police Department, who arrived at the scene just after Mr. Floyd was taken away in an ambulance. Mr. Pleoger spoke about the department’s policy on use of force and was probed by prosecutors on whether Mr. Chauvin complied with those policies. Asked whether police officers should remove their knees from a suspect’s neck when the suspect stops resisting, Mr. Pleoger said they should. According to video evidence, Mr. Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd for several minutes after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive. The defense objected when prosecutors tried to ask Mr. Pleoger whether Mr. Chauvin violated use of force policies, but the prosecution did ask him when, in his opinion, the police officers should have ended their restraint of Mr. Floyd. He replied, “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.”

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