Trial of drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman to begin in US with anonymous jury and high security
08 November, 2018, 01:05
One of Mexico'smost notorious drug lords will go on trial in the USA later on Monday. Guzman sat at the defense table listening through an interpreter and wearing street clothes - a dark suit and a white shirt with an open collar - instead a jail uniform for the first time since he was extradicted to the United States early a year ago. There are extra precautions being taken for witnesses and jurors to ensure their safety, as well.
Unlike most Americans who get called for jury duty, those interviewed Monday seemed genuinely eager to serve.
A query acquired by CNN reads "The case for which you are summoned involves the defendant JOAQUIN ARCHIVALDO GUZMAN LOERA, also known as 'El Chapo.' Have you read, seen or heard anything about the defendant, the case, or people involved?"
The accused killer drug boss did not make eye contact with the prospective jurors, even though they were seated no more than 10 feet away from the leader of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel during questioning. "Probably not. The machine keeps rolling", says Rob Heroy, a North Carolina lawyer who has defended other Mexican drug barons.
The Sinaloa cartel that Guzman founded in 1989 is still hugely powerful. In the United States, opioid addiction has spiraled into an epidemic.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan has said he will try to develop alternative security logistics so the bridge would not be closed twice a day during the trial.
The judge also agreed with prosecutors that the jury for the case should be kept anonymous, a measure typical in terrorism or mob cases where jury intimidation is a concern.
Guzman is charged with 17 counts of murder, conspiracy, drug trafficking and money laundering. US Marshals will escort them to and from court every day.
Prosecutors say the US government is seeking a $14 billion forfeiture order as part of the case. Heroy estimates the trial will cost U.S. taxpayer "more than $50 million", a price tag that includes protection programs for at least some of the several hundred witnesses expected to testify. Mexican authorities then recaptured the fugitive in January 2016. According to court papers, some are being held in special jail units for their protection, while others are in witness protection programs.
After Guzman was brought to NY, authorities here decided he should be housed in solitary confinement in a high-security wing of a federal jail in Manhattan that has held notorious terrorists and mobsters.
But Congress could not remove him from office without a conviction by a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate. At 7 p.m., most polls in New Hampshire and Vermont close, but the contests in those states are only mildly interesting.
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