Reputation precedes 'El Chapo' as United States trial approaches

Larry Hoffman
November 8, 2018

The trial of accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman begins Monday in NY with jury selection.

Although the charges in the case all relate to drug trafficking, prosecutors are also expected to introduce evidence that Guzman was involved in multiple murder plots in the course of his career, including in wars with rival cartels. But at what price? "Probably not", said Mr 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 and his co-defendant Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada remains at large.

Last year, there was a record 29,000 murders in Mexico. In the United States, opioid addiction has spiralled into an epidemic. In 2016, an average of 174 Americans died every day from drug overdoses.

US District Judge Brian Cogan, prosecutors and defence lawyers on Monday morning questioned 20 potential jurors, and have so far ruled out five.

The 12 jurors, with six alternates, will remain anonymous and will be escorted by United States marshals to and from court every day.

A Mexican official told Reuters at the time that the move was a show of goodwill to incoming US President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated the next day, though Alberto Elias Beltran, Mexico's assistant attorney general for worldwide affairs, denied any connection.

Guzman faces life in prison, if convicted.

Prosecutors say the USA government is seeking a $14 billion forfeiture order as part of the case.

One of Mexico's most notorious drug lords will go on trial in the United States later on Monday.

Jury selection will take place amid tight security conditions reserved only for the most risky defendants. Some are expected to testify under aliases.

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. Some have even been hiding in special jail units and others in witness protection programs, WNBC-TV reported. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell.

He conducted a secret interview with Sean Penn, who, according to the actor, was unaware he was being surveilled by the Mexican government, and reportedly ended up being the beacon for authorities to ultimately catch up with Guzman.

Mexican druglord "El Chapo" Guzman is on the run from police after making a daring escape from Mexico's most secure prison.

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

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