Mexican drug lord El Chapo goes on trial in NY

07 November, 2018, 15:35 | Author: Carlos George
  • Jury selection in 'El Chapo' trial set to begin Monday in New York

If convicted, he faces life in prison.

El Chapo made world headlines in July 2015 when he slipped out of his cell at the maximum security Altiplano federal prison via a mile-long underground tunnel.

Guzman was extradited to the United States in January 2017 on an indictment that detailed his alleged reign over a merciless trafficking organization controlled through murder and torture. The government has presented so much evidence that the defence complains they have not had enough time to review it all. Due to security concerns, the jurors' identity will be kept secret and they will be guarded by armed marshals on the way from court to home during the expected four-month trial.

He was recruited by Guadalajara cartel boss Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as "The Godfather" of Mexico's modern drug cartels.

Judge Brian Cogan has taken the extraordinary step of holding the trial behind closed doors.

Jury selection will be conducted in security conditions reserved only for the most unsafe defendants.

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"It's probably set up to be the most expensive trial in the history of the U.S.", said Rob Heroy, a North Carolina lawyer who has defended other Mexican drug barons. As a reason, the judge cited prosecutors" contention that Guzman's cartel "employs "sicarios, ' or hit men, who carried out hundreds of acts of violence, including murders, assaults and kidnappings". His co-defendant Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada remains at large, and violent drug trafficking continues unabated in Mexico. Some are expected to testify under aliases. "It's probably set up to be the most expensive trial in the history of the United States", he told AFP. Some of the informants have already been absorbed into the USA witness protection program, given new identities and homes around the country. Some of them are being held in special jail units, while others are in witness protection programs.

He has been in solitary confinement in a high-security NY prison since Mexico extradited him to the United States in January 2017. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell.

The only visitors he is allowed are his lawyers and twin, seven-year-old daughters, from whom he is separated by thick glass. Instead, she has attended nearly all his pretrial hearings, waving and blowing him kisses from the gallery. He was first apprehended by Mexican authorities in 2016.

Mexican authorities captured Guzman and an associate in January 2016 fleeing a raid on a house where he had been staying in northwest Mexico.

This time, Mexico chose to wash their hands of him and put him on a plane.

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