The New York trial for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, one of the world's most notorious criminals accused of spending a quarter of a century smuggling cocaine into the United States, opened yesterday (Nov 5) under huge security.
Jury selection will be conducted in security conditions reserved only for the most risky defendants.
Opening statements are expected to begin November 13.
According to court filings, prosecution witnesses will include former Sinaloa Cartel members and others involved in the drug trade who are now cooperating with the United States government.
Last year, Mexico witnessed a record 29,000 murders.
Guzman's defense attorneys have argued the level of security creates a public spectacle that's prejudicial to jurors. Two standout possibilities are twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, former Chicago-based narcotics wholesalers who did business with Guzman before their arrest in 2008. "I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats". Those men were tried on home turf, while Guzman was extradited from Mexico in 2017.
In one, a voice identified as Guzman's asks, "How much can you get rid of in a month?"
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Authorities say he maintained his grip on the Sinaloa Cartel. And for the trial, security measures at the Brooklyn courthouse will include patrols by heavily armed federal agents. Prosecutors have also sought to hide the identity of cooperating witnesses out of concerns the cartel could seek retribution, while a judge is keeping the jury anonymous to protect them from intimidation.
No one's hiding the ominous nature of the case from potential jurors. But when questioned, they said they could be impartial when weighing marijuana charges. The Sinaloa cartel that Guzman founded in 1989 is still hugely powerful.
The second time he escaped in July of 2015 he made world headlines when he broke from maximum security Altiplano federal prison via a mile-long underground tunnel.
For pretrial hearings, authorities transported the accused Mexican drug lord to and from the federal jail in lower Manhattan by shutting down the Brooklyn Bridge to make way for the police motorcade.
Prosecutors, defence lawyers, and US District Judge Brian Cogan will start by choosing jurors for what is expected to be a four-month trial.