Jury to begin deliberations in trial of drug lord ‘El Chapo’

After 200 hours of testimony over nearly three months, the Mexican drug lord faces the prospect of life behind bars.

Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias 'El Chapo' is shown to the press after his 1993 arrest in Mexico [File: Damiam Dovarganes/AP]
Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias ‘El Chapo’ is shown to the press after his 1993 arrest in Mexico [File: Damiam Dovarganes/AP]

After nearly three months of testimony about a vast drug-smuggling conspiracy steeped in violence, a jury is due to begin deliberations on Monday at the US trial of the infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.


A federal judge in Brooklyn is set to give instructions to jurors in the morning before asking them to begin deciding the verdict for 61-year-old Guzman, who faces life in prison.

Throughout the months-long trial, the jury has heard more than 200 hours of testimony about Guzman’s rise to power as the head of the Sinaloa cartel. Prosecutors say he is responsible for smuggling at least 200 tonnes of cocaine into the US and a wave of killings in turf wars with other cartels.

The 11-week trial, which featured testimony from more than 50 witnesses, offered the public an unprecedented look into the inner workings of the cartel, named after the state in northwest Mexico where Guzman was born in a poor mountain village.

Prosecutors said he trafficked tonnes of cocaine, heroin, cannabis and methamphetamine into the US over more than two decades, consolidating his power in Mexico through murders and wars with rival cartels.

The defence has argued that Chapo was set up as a “fall guy” by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a drug kingpin from Sinaloa who remains at large.

The most detailed evidence against Guzman came from more than a dozen former associates who struck deals to cooperate with US prosecutors.

Through them, jurors heard how the Sinaloa cartel gained power amid the shifting allegiances of the Mexican drug trade in the 1990s, eventually coming to control almost the entire Pacific coast of Mexico.

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‘El Rapido’

They heard how Guzman made a name for himself in the 1980s as “El Rapido”, the speedy one, by building cross-border tunnels that allowed him to move cocaine from Mexico into the US faster than anyone else.

Despite his ties to government officials, Guzman often lived on the run. Imprisoned in 1993, he escaped in 2001 hidden in a laundry cart and spent the following years hiding in the mountains of Sinaloa, guarded by a private army.

He was seized and imprisoned again in 2014, but pulled off his best-known escape the following year when he disappeared into a tunnel dug into his prison cell.

He was finally captured again in January 2016 after a shoot-out in Sinaloa and extradited to the US on January 19, 2017.

The jury to decide his fate comprises seven women and five men. Their names have not been disclosed for security reasons.

At least three jurors are immigrants, three are Spanish speakers and several have ties to law enforcement.

Almost all of them had heard of Guzman before the trial began, but said they could be impartial. The only exception was a woman from Ethiopia who said she had “no clue” who he was.

SOURCE: News agencies