- The longer the deliberations of the jury in the trial against the Mexican drug boss Joaquín Guzmán, the more doubt arose on the guilty verdict.
- After all, in the nearly three-month trial, the New York prosecutor's office had presented more than 50 witnesses who testified about "El Chapo's" drug trafficking and other crimes.
- But the main charges alone included 27 individual violations – the panel simply did its work and carefully examined each one.
- The end result is the prosecution hoped for verdict – and a victory for the US judiciary.
The longer the deliberations of the jury, the better the mood of Joaquín Guzmán, whom the world knows above all as "El Chapo" – "the short one". According to the New York Procuratorate, the man who earned his nickname from his stocky stature was one of the biggest drug traffickers between Colombia, Mexico and the United States until his latest arrest in January 2016. Since mid-November, the 61-year-old has been tried in the Eastern District Court in the Brooklyn district. The nearly three-month negotiation marathon was from the beginning also a media spectacle. "El Chapo," who was once interviewed by Hollywood star Sean Penn, seemed to enjoy that attention. All the more so, as it became clear in the past days that the twelve-member jury had difficulties to come to the guilty verdict.
Last Thursday, when the first week of deliberations by the anonymous body for security reasons ended without a verdict, a grinning Guzmán thanked Jeffrey Lichtman, one of his three defenders. The tabloid New York Post the "dramatic embrace" in court was worth a separate article. Everything seemed to indicate a surprise in one of the most spectacular processes in recent American history.
In the end it has become the expected guilty verdict. On Tuesday afternoon (local time), the twelve-member panel found Joaquín Guzmán guilty on all ten charges. Among them: leadership of a criminal organization, conspiracy for the production and distribution of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana and money laundering. "El Chapo", who has spectacularly managed to escape prosecution in his native Mexico several times, is threatened with life imprisonment in the United States. Guzmán's lawyers announced that they would challenge the verdict.
On the first day the judge had to slow down the participants
Judge Brian Cogan will now decide on the specific sentence, which not only had to lead through a lengthy and sometimes fragmented procedure, but also had to slow down overly excited participants. On the very first day of the trial in November, he had warned the prosecutor not to commit a murder trial on a drug trial – the accusation also blamed the former head of the Sinaloa cartel on dozens of murders. And defender Eduardo Balarezo scoffed as he tried to ridicule the fears of a jury member. Again and again there were sparks in the course of the eleven-week negotiating marathon. Last week, when a man claiming to be a family member, El Chapos, claimed one of the coveted seats in Cogan's courtroom. The alleged relative turned out to be an attention seeker with an arrest warrant pending – and was taken away by perplexed observers.
Occasionally, the event reminded one of a Hollywood production about a Mexican drug lord so outraged that the horror of organized crime seems almost ridiculous. For example, "El Chapo's" 29-year-old wife Emma Coronel Aispuro regularly provided her 28,000 Instagram subscribers with photos that she carefully prepared for the waiting cameras outside the courthouse. "I'll help you to the end because I love you," she wrote in a post addressed to her imprisoned husband. A hug between the spouses had rejected judge Cogan. Shortly before the closing arguments, the reality of the court and the serial fiction came close. Alejandro Edda paid his respects to the Eastern District Court – the Mexican actor plays "El Chapo" in Netflix format Narcos: Mexico,
It is thanks to Judge Cogan that, despite the adverse circumstances, the US judiciary is the winner of this historic process in the fight against drug trafficking. He took several hours last Monday to brief the jury for their upcoming deliberations. 56 witnesses testified during the trial, including former employees and ex-business partner Guzmáns. They described how "El Chapo" professionalized cocaine and heroin smuggling into the United States: by creating an underground tunnel network; Trucks, planes and even a submarine used to transport the drug. Because he accelerated the drug smuggling across the border, "El Chapo" eventually got another nickname: "El Rapido", the fleet. The defense had little to oppose the prosecution's witness-show – she presented a single witness.
The main charge alone included 27 violations
The jury needed to be careful in their deliberations despite the seemingly overwhelming burden of proof. Again and again, the committee asked in recent days to get once again insight into individual statements. The main charge, which accused Guzmán of having run an international drug smuggling ring for years, was 27 individual violations. The eight women and four men on the panel had to unanimously agree to at least three in order to be able to pronounce "El Chapo" on this point.
That took – and let the defense team in the meantime already believe in a victory. Last Friday, the law firm Balarezo tweeted a photo showing a tequila bottle in the shape of a pistol. The post was overwritten with the words, "For after the process."
The sentence in the Guzmán case is due to be announced at the end of June.