Attorneys defending ruthless Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán assured Brooklyn Federal Court Justice Brian M. Cogan that their client won’t murder prospective jurors. Guzmán’s lead attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, is vehemently opposed to the prosecution’s petition for an “anonymous” and “partially sequestered jury.” Balarezo contends that armed protection and special precautions for jurors would cause the panel to become biased against Guzmán. El Chapo’s counselor proposed that the names of jurors remain concealed from the public and Guzmán. However, Balarezo wants the identities of those panelists to be disclosed to all litigators involved in the sensational case.
“Such an order would unduly burden Mr. Guzmán’s presumption of innocence, impair his ability to conduct meaningful voir dire (examination of potential jurors) and create the extremely unfair impression that he is a dangerous person from whom the jury must be protected,” Balarezo wrote in a motion filed this week in US District Court Eastern District of New York.
Prosecutors rebutted Balarezo’s motion by citing Guzmán’s notoriously bloodthirsty nature.
“Not only has the defendant demonstrated both his ability to direct his drug empire while incarcerated as well as his control of a vast network of criminal associates, the defendant also possesses the financial means to procure assistance in interfering with the judicial process,” prosecutors wrote.
Guzmán, the Sinaloa cartel’s headman, reportedly produced, distributed and smuggled roughly 25 percent of all narcotics that entered the U.S. via Mexico since his reign commenced in 1989. Thus, while overseeing a business that drug enforcement experts predict exceeded $3 billion annually in revenue, Guzmán was named by Forbes as the “biggest drug lord of all time” and the magazine ranked him as one of the world’s wealthiest individuals from 2009 through 2011.
Chicago has become America’s most infamous city for its gang-fueled drug violence. The crime-plagued metropolis tallied 650 homicides in 2017, according to police data released in early January. Consequently, for the second consecutive year, the nation’s third-largest city registered more slayings than New York City and Los Angeles combined. Somewhat astoundingly, despite being based in another country, the head of Chicago’s Drug Enforcement Administration, Jack Riley, claims that Guzmán’s network especially ravaged the Windy City’s South Side and West Side areas.
“While Chicago is 1,500 miles from Mexico, the Sinaloa drug cartel is so deeply embedded in the city that local and federal law enforcement are forced to operate as if they are on the border,” said Riley.
Jeffrey Johnson, a member of the board of directors for the Chicago Crime Commission that named Guzmán the city’s Public Enemy No. 1 in 2013, concurred with Riley’s synopsis.
“(Guzman’s crimes) need to be addressed at the highest levels of the U.S. government and the highest levels of the Mexican government,” said Johnson. “Don’t kid ourselves, that’s why we have used the label as Public Enemy Number One in this instance, of the havoc of this organization and he as the head leader has wreaked on the streets to the citizens of Chicago.”
The 5-foot-6 El Chapo, a derisive nickname that means “Shorty” in Spanish, escaped from prison in 2001 and 2015. Infuriated by Guzmán’s Houdini-like disappearances, U.S. officials offered $5 million for information leading to his arrest. Approximately five months after using a tunnel to flee from Mexico’s top-security prison, Guzmán’s cronies lost a shootout and he was apprehended by marines and federal police near the coastal city of Los Mochis in Sinaloa on January 8, 2016. A year later, El Chapo was flown to the United States District Court in New York to face a 17-count indictment alleging that he committed an array of crimes across multiple American cities.
Prosecutors have requested that Guzmán forfeit $14 billion worth of the fortune that he amassed from his nefarious activities. Conversely, claiming a lack of funds to properly prepare a defense, Balarezo and the rest of his legal team successfully pleaded with Cogan to postpone Guzmán’s trial from April until September.