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George Floyd's girlfriend, who was in a relationship with him when he died, was visibly distressed Thursday as she recounted her first encounter with Floyd and answered questions about their opioid use.

Why it matters: The prosecution and defense fought to sway jurors on Day 4 of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial, casting Floyd as a devoted partner and a drug-addled drifter, respectively. Prosecutors are seeking Chauvin's conviction on murder and manslaughter charges.

What she's saying: 45-year-old Courteney Batya Ross met Floyd in August 2017 while she was waiting to visit her sons' father at a Salvation Army shelter. She said she was tired and feeling alone when Floyd, then a security guard at the shelter, came up to her and said, "Sis, you okay, sis?" — before asking if he could pray with her.

  • "We had been through so much, my sons and I," Ross said, repeatedly apologizing to the court as she struggled to speak through emotion. "And this kind person just to come up to me and say, 'Can I pray with you?' ... It was so sweet."
  • Afterward, when he found out she was single, Ross said, "he asked me if he could get my number and we had our first kiss in the lobby."

During their three years together, they enjoyed eating and spending every day together, she told jurors. But they also both struggled with opioid addiction, she said, calling it a lifelong battle.

  • Floyd used opioids to cope with injuries that stretched from his neck and shoulder blades down to his lower back, according to Ross. "Both Floyd and I, our story, it's a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids," she said.
  • In March 2020, Floyd was hospitalized for an overdose. Ross said he appeared to start using again two weeks before he died in May.

Lawyers for Floyd's family issued a statement later on Thursday, saying the defense was focusing on Floyd's drug use because "that is the go-to tactic when the facts are not on your side."

  • "Tens of thousands of Americans struggle with self-medication and opioid abuse and are treated with dignity, respect and support, not brutality," lawyers Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said.
  • "We are confident that the jury will see past that to arrive at the truth — that George Floyd would have lived to see another day if Derek Chauvin hadn't brutally ended his life in front of a crowd of witnesses pleading for his life," they added.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the statement from the lawyers of Floyd's family.

Go deeper

Cashier says he felt "guilt" for accepting George Floyd's fake bill

The 19-year-old Cup Foods cashier who accepted George Floyd's counterfeit bill testified at former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial Wednesday that if he had "just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided."

Between the lines: Christopher Martin's words echo a recurring sentiment expressed by witnesses called to the stand, several of whom were minors when they watched Floyd die in front of them.

Mar 31, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Witness breaks down after George Floyd video: "I understand him"

Witness Charles McMillian, 61, broke down Wednesday afternoon after prosecutors played police bodycam video of George Floyd saying over and over that he couldn't breathe and calling for his mother.

The big picture: The reaction captured what we've seen from witness after witness — the trauma of reliving those harrowing moments on global television as America reckons all over again with one of its worst moments.

Apr 1, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Derek Chauvin trial testimony puts Cup Foods back in the spotlight

A Cup Foods worker said store owners took counterfeit bills out of employees' paychecks. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The South Minneapolis corner store where George Floyd was accused of passing a fake $20 bill before his death was at the center of the Derek Chauvin trial Wednesday.

Driving the news: Former Cup Foods employee Christopher Martin testified that the independent grocer's policy was if an employee accepted a counterfeit bill, the cash came out of the worker's paycheck.