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Live Coverage of Derek Chauvin Trial; Courteney Batya Ross is Questioned by Defense; Ross is Cross-Examined by Prosecution. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired April 1, 2021 - 10:30   ET



MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Ms. Ross? Sorry to interrupt, but I just kind of want to maybe help with a few questions, OK?


FRANK: At that point, did you know what Mr. Floyd was doing there at the Salvation Army?

ROSS: Oh, yes, I'm sorry. He worked there as a security guard.

FRANK: And so he came up to you and tried to comfort you?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: OK. And was that the beginning of your relationship?

ROSS: Well, not that part. That was just Floyd. Afterwards, he had asked me who my son's father was, and I said, you know, we're co- parenting, we're not in a relationship. And that's when his -- 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.

FRANK: And after that, how close did you become?

ROSS: We were very close.

FRANK: And so I'm not sure you told us when this was. Do you recall roughly -- you know, not the date but the year at least?

ROSS: In August of 2017.

FRANK: OK. And up until his death, did you continue to be in a relationship with him?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: Can you describe how close -- how often you saw each other during those three years?

ROSS: Just about every day, we saw each other as much as we possibly could.

FRANK: Were there times when you weren't as close as other times?

ROSS: We had, you know, sometimes just like all couples, we argued sometimes and you know, might have taken a break, but.

FRANK: Like most couples?

ROSS: But -- like most couples, I assume.

FRANK: Did you learn, you know, whether he was new to Minneapolis?

ROSS: Oh, yeah. On our first date, you know, like most people do, we went over, like, our histories and he told me he was from Houston.

FRANK: And what kinds of things did the two of you do together when you'd get together and do things?

ROSS: Floyd was new to the city, so everything was kind of new to him, everywhere we went was new to him. He made it seem like, you know, I was new to my own city. So we liked to go to -- he lived right by Lake Bde Maka Ska, we liked to go down there a lot and, you know, enjoy the outdoors. We liked to go to the Sculpture Garden and just -- excuse me -- walk around.

We went out to eat a lot.


ROSS: Because Floyd loved to eat a lot, he's a big man and it took -- you know, it took a lot of energy to keep him going and he loved food. And so did I. It was fun, it was an adventure, always, with him.

FRANK: Did you know if he -- where he was working? You know, prior to his death, had he been working someplace?

ROSS: Yes, he was working at Conga --

FRANK: What is --

ROSS: -- Latin Bistro.

FRANK: OK. What is that?

ROSS: Conga is a restaurant, but also a nightclub at, you know, in the evening, so --

FRANK: What's he do there?

ROSS: He was a security guard, he was head of security there.

FRANK: And did he at some point lose that job?

ROSS: Only because of COVID. I mean, he -- it shut down because of COVID.

FRANK: And you had met at Salvation Army. Did you learn eventually that he worked there?

ROSS: Yes, I knew that evening that he worked with the Salvation Army.

FRANK: And he was a security guard there?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: All right. And at some point, that job ended, correct?

ROSS: Yes, I think maybe a year or so after I met him.

FRANK: And you know, in the time period leading up to his death in May of last year, you know, let's talk about January to May, when he passed. How often were the two of you seeing each other?

ROSS: Of 2020?


ROSS: At the beginning of the year, we had not seen each other, kind of separated for a little while. But from March until May, we spent every day together.


FRANK: And we have a photograph of Mr. Floyd, I believe we showed that to you in a prior meeting with you, correct?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And you recognize that as him?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: All right.

Your honor, we'd offer exhibit 247?


PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY JUDGE: Two forty-seven is received.

FRANK: So I'm showing you exhibit 247.

ROSS: Sorry.

FRANK: Yes, that's OK. See if you touch the screen it's going to write on there, so. Sorry.

You familiar with this photograph?

ROSS: Yes, yes.

FRANK: What kind of photograph is this?

ROSS: I would call it a dad selfie.

FRANK: Why would you call it that?

ROSS: I'm just joking, but a lot of dads, like, sometimes don't have the best angle when they take selfies, it's kind of lower and -- and it just -- I don't -- it's -- they don't -- I don't know, they don't take the time to maybe do the certain angles that everybody else does.

FRANK: And so this is a -- you believe a selfie that he took?

ROSS: Yes. I believe it was outside of the Salvation Army.

FRANK: Do you recall about roughly when this was taken?

ROSS: From the sweater he was wearing, I think it was the fall of 2017.

FRANK: Did Mr. Floyd have any children?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: How many children did he have?

ROSS: Two girls.

FRANK: And did he try to be a part of their lives as much as he could?

ROSS: Yes, he loved his girls. It was hard being in Minnesota, you know, long distance, but.

FRANK: So his daughters were not in Minnesota?


FRANK: Is that no?


FRANK: OK, just want to make sure that your voice is loud enough for everybody to hear it.

At some point, when you were -- when you knew Mr. Floyd, did you learn of his mother's death?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: Do you recall when that was?

ROSS: It was in May of 2018.

FRANK: And did you see -- well describe, if you would, for the jury what you saw, his reaction to his mother's death.

ROSS: Pardon me. Floyd is -- Floyd's what I would call a mama's boy, I could tell from the minute I met him. And when he came back from Houston, he seemed kind of like a shell of himself. Like he was -- like he was broken. He seemed to sad, he didn't have the same kind of bounce that he had.

He was devastated, he loved his ma so much. I knew that, he talked about her all the time. I knew how he felt. It's so hard to lose a parent that you love like that.

FRANK: Ms. Ross, I'll -- thank you. I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'll see if I can ask some questions to help a little, OK?

So he struggled with grief over his mother's death?

ROSS: Excuse me. Yes.

FRANK: OK. And going to change topics a bit, OK?


FRANK: All right. You need a minute, are you OK?


ROSS: I'm OK, I can do it.

FRANK: OK. You met Mr. Floyd at Salvation Army?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And then proceeded to, you know, maintain a relationship with him --

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: I have to ask you if, you know, drug use was a part of that relationship.

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And what kind of drug use was a part of that relationship?

ROSS: Floyd and I both suffered with opioid addiction.

FRANK: And do you know how -- I mean, like, for your own self --

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: -- how you came to be involved, you know, with -- what kind of drugs and how you became involved?

ROSS: The abuse (ph) of opioids, yes. Both Floyd and I are -- our story, it's a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids. We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck, and his was in his back. We both had prescriptions. But after prescriptions that were filled and we -- we got addicted. And tried really hard to break that addiction, many times.

FRANK: And were you each aware of each other's struggles with opioids?

ROSS: Yes. Eventually, in our relationship, we shared that.

FRANK: And did you work together on that?

ROSS: Absolutely, absolutely.

FRANK: And over how long of a period did this struggle go on for you, for both of you?

ROSS: Addiction, in my opinion, is a lifelong struggle. So it's something that we -- we dealt with every day. You know, you -- it's not something that just kind of comes and goes, it's something I'll deal with forever.

FRANK: And were there periods of time when you were not using opioids?

ROSS: Absolutely.

FRANK: Same question with regard to Mr. Floyd?

ROSS: Yes, absolutely.

FRANK: Were there times when you knew that he was using opioids more than by prescription?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: Does that make sense?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And when you weren't using, you know, prescription opioids, you know, where did you get them?

ROSS: Off the street, on the black market.

FRANK: OK. And you knew that he was doing that as well?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And turning your attention to -- well, let me ask you this. You were in a relationship for nearly three years?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And did this use of opioids beyond even prescriptions sort of continue throughout that three-year period for Mr. Floyd?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: Something that you saw yourself and were aware of?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: I have to ask the same question of you, did you struggle using during that entire period?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And were there times when you would use together?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And for what you saw Mr. Floyd using, what form of opioids did he typically use?

ROSS: OxyContin, or oxycodone (ph), you know, any kind of oxy.

FRANK: And how did he get that, how did he use it?

ROSS: Swallow them.

FRANK: And so in pill form?

ROSS: Yes, sorry.

FRANK: That's all right, not the easiest questions to ask, you know, to -- for you, so I'm sorry --

ROSS: It's OK.

FRANK: -- if you ever don't ever understand my question, feel free to ask.


FRANK: Or let me know, OK?

And so there were times when you would obtain non-prescription opiate pills together?

ROSS: Yes, they would be other people's prescriptions.

FRANK: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you?

ROSS: They would be other people's prescriptions.

FRANK: OK. And were there sometimes -- well, why would get them through other people's prescriptions, what do you mean?

ROSS: To make sure they were safe.

FRANK: And were there times, then, that you had to get pills other than, you know, from what you knew were somebody else's prescriptions?

ROSS: Yes.


FRANK: And were there times when you thought that maybe Mr. Floyd wasn't -- or was using, but you know, not with you, not in your presence? ROSS: Yes, there was a time.

FRANK: And were there times when you were using together -- well, I guess that's a poorly worded question already. Let me just ask it this way. Did you use the same amounts when you used?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: OK. And taking your attention to March of 2020, and there was a time in March when you knew he was back to using pills, is that right?

ROSS: I thought his behavior had changed.

FRANK: OK. What do you mean by that?

ROSS: I think when you know someone who suffers with any type of addiction, you can start to kind of see changes when they're using again. And there's just slight behavioral changes that I noticed in him, and it just made me suspect.

FRANK: And in March of 2020, did you also kind of fall back into using some?

ROSS: Yes, I did.

FRANK: OK. So you were -- and were you two using together back in March, or you just suspected his use?

ROSS: In March, yes, we did use together.

FRANK: OK. And was there a period then after March where you thought the two of you had both been able to quit for a while?

ROSS: Yes, a long period.

FRANK: And then kind of going forward to May of 2020, was there a time when you thought he might be using again?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: So in May, when you thought that, what led you to think that?

ROSS: It was the same type of thing, just behavior changes in Floyd.

FRANK: And did you also kind of fall back to using opioids in May of 2020?

ROSS: One time, yes.

FRANK: And he was aware of that?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And when he -- let me ask you this, I guess. In May of 2020, did you know where he was living? Just the general area. ROSS: Yes, he -- yes.

FRANK: Did he have his own place where he stayed?

ROSS: Yes, he lived in a place in St. Louis Park, in a side-by-side.

FRANK: Did he have roommates there?

ROSS: Yes, two.

FRANK: The two of you ever live together?

ROSS: No, we stayed at each other's places but we didn't live together.

FRANK: OK. So in May of 2020, do you recall the last time you spoke with him?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: Do you recall when that was in relation to his death?

ROSS: It was the day before he died.

FRANK: And how did you talk to him? By phone?

ROSS: By phone.

FRANK: OK. And did you know, you know, what he was going to be doing that night or where he was going to be staying?

ROSS: That night I knew he was -- well, he said he was going to be staying at Sylvia's.

FRANK: Did you know who Sylvia was?

ROSS: Yes, she was a friend of ours.

FRANK: OK. And so as far you knew, he was going to be staying at a friend's house, Sylvia?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: OK. And do you recall him saying what the plan was for why they were going to Sylvia's?

ROSS: Well, Floyd had, you know, made his Minneapolis family here too, and a lot of the people that he was friends with were from other states and almost everybody had lost their job within that time. And he was feeling kind of lonely and just wanted to hang out with his friends, and so a lot of people that worked at the Salvation Army with him and other people just stayed there. And they were, you know, just kind of being a family.

FRANK: And was Sylvia -- did she work at the Salvation Army too?

ROSS: Yes.


FRANK: OK. So he knew her from there?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: So that was the last time you talked to him, is the Sunday before his death?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: You told the jurors earlier that sort of the classic story leading to an opioid addiction, having injuries and prescriptions?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: Had Mr. Floyd been an active person physically?

ROSS: Yes, he was very active.

FRANK: OK. And what do you mean by that, what types of things did you see him doing?

ROSS: Well, Floyd liked to work out every day. He lifted weights that are far beyond anything I could lift, every single day. He did sit- ups, push-ups, pull-ups, just within his house. If he went out and about, he would go running, biking, he always played sports. He loved playing sports with like neighborhood kids or anybody, really, that would pick up any type of ball or racket, he would -- he would play instantly. So he was always involved in that.

He would do anything physical. We've gone paddle-boating, we'll take walks. But he was the type of person who would just run to the store.

FRANK: When you were with him, you know, whether either he had been exercising or just hanging out together, ever complain of shortness of breath or having difficulty breathing?


FRANK: And did he -- did he have -- well, did he have sports injuries that he complained of?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: You mentioned earlier what, his neck?

ROSS: His neck, and it -- from his neck to shoulder blade and down to his lower back, there was three main kind of areas.

FRANK: Despite that he remained physically active, he would do these activities?

ROSS: Oh, yes. FRANK: OK. And when he did those things that led to his prescriptions

-- or, I'm sorry, those injuries that led to his prescriptions for opiates?

ROSS: The?

FRANK: The injuries that he had to his neck --

ROSS: Oh, yes.

FRANK: And I think I forgot to ask you, was there a time in 2020 when the two of you took a test for COVID?

ROSS: Yes.

FRANK: And did you learn the results, did he tell you the results of his COVID test? What --


ROSS: Yes, his were positive, mine were negative.

FRANK: And do you recall when that was?

ROSS: I believe it was late March.

FRANK: And so because of that, did he quarantine for a while?

ROSS: Yes. He was already quarantining, but his roommates also had COVID.

FRANK: OK. Thank you, Ms. Ross.

That's the only questions I have, your honor.

CAHILL: Mr. Nelson?

ROSS: Thank you.

NELSON: Good morning, Ms. Ross.

ROSS: Good morning, Mr. Nelson.

NELSON: Thank you for being with us this morning.

ROSS: Thank you.

NELSON: I'm sorry to hear about your struggles with opioid addiction.

ROSS: Thank you.

NELSON: Thank you for sharing that with the jury. I have some follow- up questions about your experiences with Mr. Floyd. Before I get into that, I want to just go through a few things with you.

You have been interviewed by law enforcement and prosecutors several times in connection with this case, is that correct?


ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: The first interview that you provided was in May, it was on May 31st of 2020 with an agent from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension named Nathan Adams as well as an FBI agent named Christopher Langert, correct?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And you -- have you had an opportunity to review a transcript of that interview, that first interview?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: All right. You were also -- then you had a meeting on December 14th with the prosecution team in preparation for this case, right?

ROSS: December 14th?

NELSON: December 14th. Would you --

ROSS: It could be.

NELSON: -- dispute me if I told you that?

ROSS: I believe you.

NELSON: OK. Then you also had an interview back in June of 2020 with just the FBI agents and some prosecutors from the federal government, right?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And then you met again with prosecutors on February 21st of this year, or 25th -- excuse me -- of this year?

ROSS: That sounds right.

NELSON: And then finally on March 31st, which I believe was just yesterday, right?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And you understand, again, that you -- that at least the meetings with law enforcement, they were recorded, transcribed, and you've had opportunities to review both of those transcripts?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And in fact, I think yesterday, when you met with prosecutors, you went through the FBI transcript from that meeting back in June? ROSS: Yes, I did.

NELSON: OK. So I know that you and Mr. Floyd both struggled with opioid addiction, and I just need to ask some kind of follow-up questions on that and time frames, all right?

So when you first met Mr. Floyd, throughout the -- you would agree that throughout the course of your relationship, you and Mr. Floyd both had a struggle with opioid addiction?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And there would be periods of time where you would both be using, and there would be periods of time where neither one of you would be using, right?

ROSS: Yes, that's correct.

NELSON: And there would be periods of time where one or the other may be using, right? Like you may have been using and --

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: -- he wasn't or vice versa?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: All right. And you knew, at some point, Mr. Floyd had gone through some treatment programs, right?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: OK. And I kind of want to just zero in on the timeframe from January of 2020 until the -- his death in May, would that be OK?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And I know that this is difficult, I'm sorry we have to go through this. But. So I want to kind of work backwards, in a sense.


NELSON: In terms of your statements.


NELSON: Well, let me strike that.

You -- you testified that there were periods of time where you would get a prescription for -- or Mr. Floyd would get a prescription for opiates legally, meaning through a doctor, right?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And you'd go to a doctor, you would get a prescription, and you would use those pills, right? ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And then there were other times where you would buy other people's prescriptions from them, right?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And then there were times when those weren't available and so you would have to buy different types of pills, right? Unknown sources, so to speak?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And are you familiar with Morries Hall?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And was Morries Hall the person that you and Mr. Floyd bought controlled substances from?

ROSS: We had.

NELSON: OK. I am going to ask -- I'm going to show you a photograph and just to you, you'll be the only one who can see it at this time. It's been previously marked as defense exhibit 1,006.


NELSON: Can you see that photograph, ma'am?


NELSON: Just to her?


NELSON: Oh, sorry, I've got to hit this. Can you see that photograph, ma'am?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: Is that the person you know to be Morries Hall?

ROSS: Yes.

NELSON: And can you just generally describe what he's wearing?

ROSS: A red hat, red pants and a black and white shirt.

TEXT: Derek Chauvin Trial, Day Four of Testimony: Girlfriend testifies about her relationship with George Floyd; Gets emotional describing when she met Floyd for the first time; Tells jury she and Floyd struggled with opioids

NELSON: OK. And that is up in the upper right-hand corner.