Trial of drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman to begin in US with anonymous jury and high security
08 November, 2018, 04:40
Jury selection began Monday for the USA trial of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman with potential jurors, including a self-described professional Michael Jackson impersonator, quizzed about how much they knew about Guzman's reputation as a ruthless drug lord in Mexico.
Prosecutors say they believe they can prove he was also involved in a 1992 shootout at a nightclub that left six people dead.
Jurors also will be escorted to and from the courthouse by federal officers and sequestered from the public while inside.
Meanwhile, the diminutive Guzman, 61, appeared in Brooklyn federal court for the start of jury selection wearing a dark-blue suit and a white dress shirt with a spread collar that was unbuttoned at the top.
A moment of levity came when one potential juror was asked about a deli near his workplace stocking a sandwich called "El Chapo".
Prosecutors say Guzman was in the habit of ordering the killings of anyone who got in his way during his heyday in Mexico as boss of the Sinaloa cartel.
There's now speculation that a special cell for Guzman has been set up in the bowels of the courthouse where he will spend the night after his days in court.
U.S. prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel since 2003, Guzman directed the movement of multi-ton shipments of drugs including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine across borders and into the United States. His co-defendant Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada remains at large, and violent drug trafficking continues unabated in Mexico.
Last year, Mexico witnessed a record 29,000 murders.
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. In 2016, an average of 174 Americans died every day from drug overdoses.
An anonymous pool of potential jurors - gleaned from 1,000 New Yorkers who were sent a 31-page questionnaire - will arrive in Brooklyn federal court, where they will lay eyes on the runty drug baron himself as they are probed as potential panelists at Guzman Loera's trial on drug-conspiracy charges. The judge has banned his 29-year-old beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel, from visiting.
Arrested for the first time in Guatemala in 1993, Guzman spent more than seven years in a Mexican prison before his first escape in 2001.
In a secret meeting with actor Sean Penn which the Hollywood star wrote about in Rolling Stone magazine in 2016, Guzman boasted: "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world". He was rearrested in 2014 only to escape 14 months later from a tunnel dug into the prison. This time, Mexico made a decision to wash their hands and put him on a plane.
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