- The jury of a New York court, the Mexican drug boss Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán guilty.
- Under his leadership, a drug cartel allegedly smuggled large amounts of cocaine and other drugs into the United States.
- The US government also accuses Guzmán of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. He has to go to jail for the rest of his life.
In the trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the twelve jurors came to a verdict: Surprisingly they pleaded guilty to him in all ten charges. Among others: leadership of a criminal organization, production and international distribution of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana as well as the use of firearms and money laundering. Guzmán has to go to jail for the rest of his life.
CNN reports that he accepted his verdict without apparent emotion. Even his wife, the former beauty kingsign Emma Coronel, showed no reaction. It was only when the jury left the room that Guzmán looked for Coronel's eyes and waved to her. The two had smiled at each other, then Coronel put her hand on her chest.
Guzmán defender Jeffrey Lichtman had urged the jury late last week in his closing plea to still acquit his client. Not "El Chapo" quoted the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel, but his cursing co-founder Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada. Lichtman went to court with some prosecution witnesses. He described their statements as "garbage".
Public prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg, on the other hand, demanded that Guzmán be condemned on all counts. She and her colleagues had summoned 56 witnesses to the witness stand for eleven weeks, as well as hundreds of documents and dozens of eavesdropped phone calls. They described down to the most gruesome details the extreme violence and corruption within the drug cartel. Most of the witnesses are in US prisons. Among them were former partners and co-workers as well as a former mistress of the 61-year-old defendant.
According to the indictment, the Sinaloa cartel led by El Chapo allegedly smuggled nearly 155 tons of cocaine and other drugs into the United States between 1989 and 2014. The US government also accuses Guzmán of being responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. The drug lord was arrested in Mexico and handed over to the United States in early 2017, where he has been sitting in a high security prison in New York ever since. A death sentence was barred after an agreement between the US and Mexico.
For the US prosecution, the process was already a success in itself. Guzmán had repeatedly evaded Mexican prosecution in the past by escaping from prisons. For the process in New York, this meant not only high security precautions, but also the guarantee of a gigantic spectacle even for Big Apple conditions.
But Guzmán's way to court made headlines: to bring the drug lord from the high-security prison in downtown Manhattan to the Estern District Court in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge was temporarily blocked on each trial day. In his native Sinaloa, a mountainous state in western Mexico, "El Chapo" is revered as a saint. The fear was great that the escapee king, with the help of his followers, could once again succeed in escaping. On his last escape coup 2015, "El Chapo" had disappeared through a one and a half kilometer tunnel – on a motorcycle provided by helpers.
About 35 hours over six days, the anonymous and strictly isolated, twelve-member jury of eight women and four men had discussed Guzmán's guilt or innocence. Also a conviction in only one or some of the charges would have meant for Guzmán also a years or lifelong prison sentence. An acquittal seemed very unlikely given the sometimes overwhelming burden of proof.
For the most serious charge, involvement in a criminal organization, the US Criminal Code prescribes life imprisonment. He can not apply for early release and should remain in jail until his death. Guzmán is currently detained in a high security prison in New York's Manhattan district. It is unclear whether he should serve his sentence there or be transferred to another detention center.