The long-awaited U.S. prosecution of accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman was delayed once more Tuesday.
One of the jurors chosen to determine the fate of the accused murderous cocaine dealer was excused for unspecified reasons, putting off the opening arguments expected in the morning.
It was unclear how long it might take to select a replacement, with a new juror expected to come from the original pool of 1,000 potential panelists who failed to make the cut.
The anonymous seated panel was comprised of seven women and five men to judge the man described by U.S. authorities as “the most notorious drug trafficker in the world.”
There was heavy security and a huge crowd at Brooklyn Federal Court for the start of a trial that could mark the last chapter for the notorious narco-terrorist. Heavily-armed officers stood guard outside the building located across the East River from lower Manhattan.
Guzman, 61, spent the last 22 months in solitary confinement, with a Brooklyn judge even blocking his wife from giving El Chapo a courtroom hug. Defense lawyer Eduardo Balarezo, who has suggested Guzman was an underling taking orders from above, said his client was looking forward to trial.
“It is time to put up or shut up,” the lawyer said. El Chapo’s spouse Emma Coronel, in a dark jacket with her hair pulled back in ponytail, turned out to offer support for Guzman on a rainy morning.
The trial is expected to run as long as four months.
His mythic persona was built in large part in a pair of escapes from Mexican prisons: The first inside the bottom of a laundry cart in 2011, the second four years later through a mile-long tunnel dug beneath his jail cell showers.
El Chapo, once above ground, rode a waiting motorcycle to freedom.
The prosecution, with the help of more than a dozen turncoat witnesses, hope to present a damning tale of a multi-billion dollar drug built atop a trail of bodies. Just last month, prosecutors announced 17 new alleged murder conspiracies against El Chapo.
The start of El Chapo’s long-awaited trial was thrown into chaos Tuesday thanks to an “anxious and upset” juror who brought a doctor’s note to court to help get her booted off the case.
The woman, only identified as juror No. 1, came to court armed with a doctor’s note saying she couldn’t serve on the trial, which could last three to four months, the judge said.
“I got a handwritten letter which details medical issues that have been brought about by her selection,” Brooklyn federal court Judge Brian Cogan told lawyers.
“This person has been anxious and upset since selection… If I were to ask further questions, it will result in a breakdown and crying.”
Juror No. 1 burst into tears last week upon learning she was among the seven women and five men picked as jurors in the trial for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the notorious leader of the dangerous Sinaloa drug cartel.
Cogan refused to let her off, saying he didn’t see any “real hardship there.”
Six alternates were also selected.
Instead of replacing the nervous juror with one of the alternates, lawyers on both sides agreed to select a fresh one, which they’ll do Tuesday morning.
Guzman, 61, wore a suit and blue tie and waved to his beauty queen wife Emma Coronel Aispuro, who smiled back in the heavily secured courtroom. He shook hands with his legal team before taking a seat.
A second juror, a self-employed man, also asked to be dismissed Tuesday because of financial hardship but Cogan refused to toss him.
that is the girl who was sobbing last week. it was at that time not today that cogan said there was no hardship..i wonder how fair she can be...she may strike back at the court and gov. and vote not guilty
The way I see it.... the more people that don't like me, the less people I have to please
Opening statements finally began Tuesday in the trial for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — with prosecutors describing some of the notorious accused drug lord’s most heinous acts for jurors, along with his weapons of choice.
“Some of his favorites include a diamond-encrusted handgun with his initials on it and a gold-plated AK-47,” said federal prosecutor Adam Fels.
He recounted how Guzman allegedly ordered hits on his own loved ones and used a small private army — consisting of hundreds of men “armed with assault rifles” — to take out his rivals.
“He ordered his hit men to locate, kidnap, torture, interrogate, shoot and kill those rivals,” Fels said. “Not even Guzman’s own family members were immune.”
In one instance, the 61-year-old defendant “ordered the murder of one of his cousins — simply because he was suspected of cooperating with authorities,” Fels said, noting how the accused Mexican kingpin’s thirst for blood helped fuel his “vast drug empire.”
“Money, drugs, murder and a vast global narcotics trafficking organization — that is what this case is about, and that is what the evidence in this case will prove,” Fels said.
Guzman’s defense team, meanwhile, claimed during its opening statements that prosecutors were trying to use him as a “scapegoat.”
“There’s another side to this story, an uglier side,” said attorney Jeffrey Lichtman. “This is a case that will require you to throw out much of what you were taught.”
According to Lichtman, the real criminal mastermind is Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada — current leader of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel. The lawyer described the 70-year-old former poppy-field worker as “the biggest drug trafficker in Mexico.”
“[Zambada] has been allowed to operate for the last 55 years because he pays for it,” Lichtman said. “He bribes the current president of Mexico and for good measure, the previous one as well.”
“The US government pretends to want him. But somehow they can’t figure out where he is,” Lichtman added.
He noted how Zambada’s own brother was cooperating with the US government in this case, along with two of his sons — one of whom is expected to be the prosecution’s first witness.
These are “people who will make your skin crawl when they testify,” Lichtman said. “The government is using these gutter human beings to build their case. … These are people who will be out soon among us. Some of them are already out.”
The government is willing to do this, Lichtman said, because “the conviction of Chapo Guzman is the biggest prize they could ever imagine.”
“Open your minds to the possibility that government officials can be bribed,” he told jurors. “That American law enforcement can also be crooked.”
So many thoughts on the opening statements.
1. Lichtman did the opening statement, which in most cases is done by the attorney who is the QB if you will.
2. The prosecutor already made a big cut mention the cartel and murder.
3. The defense going after Mayo and trying to cast doubt on witnesses. We now know 100% will be Vicente and the brother of Mayo.
4. Defense casting Mayo as the actual boss and claims that Mayo bribes everyone including the president of Mexico. IMO this is a little weak.
5. Us informed people on here, well were promised that there was a mysterious boss running everything. We bantered and asked who this unknown mastermind. Very weak to me, but as a member of the jury, I probably have no clue who Mayo is. All though if they convince me that Mayo is the "real" leader, it does not diminish the fact that the accused did what he was proven to have done.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday asked a federal judge to strike the opening statement made a day earlier by the lawyer for accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman on the first day of his trial in Brooklyn for drug smuggling.
In a letter to U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, prosecutors said the lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, tried improperly to sway the jury by arguing that Guzman had been selectively targeted for prosecution, an argument the court had barred him from making.
According to the letter, Lichtman also repeatedly referred to hearsay evidence that jurors will not be allowed to consider, and made arguments based on evidence that is not expected to be presented at trial.
Prosecutors said Lichtman's opening argument was "rife with impropriety," and challenged more than 20 statements from it.
"Mr. Lichtman's opening statement was permeated with improper argument, unnoticed affirmative defences and inadmissible hearsay," the letter said. "The Court should strike it, and instruct the jury to disregard it."
Guzman's trial was expected to resume on Wednesday, and Lichtman could not immediately be reached for comment.
The government said its request concerned only the part of Lichtman's opening statement heard so far, and would not deprive him of the ability to make an "appropriate" opening statement.
Prosecutors hope to show at the trial how Guzman rose from a low-level marijuana trafficker in the 1970s to lead the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.
Among the statements by Lichtman that prosecutors challenged was what they called his insistence that the government contended that Guzman was the world's "biggest" drug trafficker.
"This repeated assertion is false," prosecutors said. "The government has not charged the defendant as 'the biggest' drug trafficker in the world, and it is required to prove no such thing."
Guzman, 61, faces 17 criminal counts and a possible life sentence if convicted.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Susan Thomas)
By Associated Press November 14 at 10:18 AM
NEW YORK — Prosecutors at the New York trial of the smuggler known as El Chapo have asked the judge to throw out the defense’s opening statement that accused Mexican presidents of wrongdoing.
The prosecution motion in the case of Joaquin Guzman (wah-KEEN’ gooz-MAHN’) was filed overnight, before the opening statements were set to resume Wednesday.
The defense calls the motion “entirely without merit.”
Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said Tuesday that his client was not the real leader of a cartel that sent tons of cocaine into the U.S.
Lichtman blamed another reputed trafficker who he said evaded capture by paying millions of dollars in bribes to Mexican presidents.
Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon and a spokesman for current President Enrique Pena Nieto vehemently deny the defense’s claims.
Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Defence lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman sought to shift blame in his opening to Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, another reputed drug trafficker in the cartel.
Mr Lichtman said of El Mayo: "He bribes the entire government of Mexico, including up to the very top, the current president of Mexico."
In his opening statement Mr Lichtman claimed El Mayo's brother and two sons are cooperating with the US government, and alleged that "they work together when it suits them, Mayo and the US government."
--Judge Cogan has admonished El Chapo's for his opening statement that accused Mexican presidents of taking bribes.
--In the defence's opening statement - which prosecutors have asked to be thrown out - El Chapo was portrayed as a scapegoat for the real leader of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada.
--"He's blamed for being the leader while the real leaders are living freely and openly in Mexico ... In truth he controlled nothing. Mayo Zambada did."
--Mr Lichtman also said that Zambada had been left free because he "bribes the entire government of Mexico including up to the very top, the current president of Mexico," Enrique Pena Nieto.
--Judge Cogan has not entirely thrown out the defence team's opening statement - as prosecutors requested - but did say Guzman's lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman went "far afield of direct or circumstantial proof."
"Your opening statement handed out a promissory note that your case is not going to cash," the judge said, and instructed the jury to focus on the evidence.
--Mr Lichtman said yesterday in his opening statement: "This is a case that will require you to throw out much of what you were taught to believe in about the way governments work and how they behave, governments in South and Central American and Mexico and even the United States ... This is a case which will require you to open your minds to the possibility that government officials at the very highest level can be bribed, can conspire to commit horrible crimes - that American law enforcement agents can also be crooked."
--A spokesman for Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto called the allegations "completely false and defamatory." Former President Felipe Calderon dismissed them as "absolutely false and reckless."
Prosecutors have started presenting evidence to jurors. The jury members were shown a video tour of the tunnel "used to smuggle drugs" between Mexico and an Arizona warehouse.
Retired US Customs Agent Carlos Salazar testified as the first witness. Mr Salazar described raids carried out on both sides of the border in May 1990.
The tunnel was half the length of a football field and big enough that a 5-foot-8 inch man barely had to lower his head to walk through it. It had electric lights and a hydraulic system to lift away flooring that was covered by a pool table.
Mr Lichtman - Guzman's defence lawyer - has resumed his opening statement, describing "the myth of El Chapo" as "very strong." He said law enforcement agents had his client autograph $100 bills for them upon his arrest.
"Mr. Guzman was somebody who enjoyed the publicity," Mr Lichtman said. "He enjoyed the notoriety."
The defence attorney also described the government's witnesses as liars seeking to mitigate their own jail sentences. "They're here because they want to get out of jail by any means necessary," Mr Lichtman said.