El Chapo’s lawyers content the jury was inappropriately following media coverage of his case and are asking for a new trial.
Attorneys for Joaquin Guzman, 61, the Mexican crime lord better known as El Chapo, are pushing to have their clients drug smuggling conviction set aside and a new trial ordered, because “juror misconduct deprived him of his constitutional right to a fair trial.”
The lawyers submitted their filing with the federal court in Brooklyn, New York, indicating new trial was needed after an article in Vice News said several jurors ignored the trial judge’s ban against following media coverage during the 11-week trial. The claim their inability to steer clear from media stories related to the case could have swayed their decision.
“We look forward to vindicating his rights in a new trial,” Eduardo Balarezo, Guzman’s attorney, said.
Guzman was originally convicted on February 12 on ten counts he faced after jurors heard evidence from more than 50 prosecution witnesses. Prosecutors said Guzman trafficked large amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine into the United States over the course of two decades and rose to a position of power and respect in Mexico after committing murders and winning wars with rival cartels. He faces life in prison with this sentencing date scheduled for June 25.
The February Vice News article was based on an interview with an unnamed juror and said at least five others violated Judge Brian Cogan’s orders not to follow Guzman’s case. Guzman’s attorneys allege this exposed jurors to a “flood of prejudicial information not admitted at trial.” They added “this included a New York Times article based on public court filings that said Guzman drugged and raped girls as young as 13 years old and published just two days before deliberations began.” Guzman previously denied those accusations.
The Vice News article also reported that jurors “knew from Twitter that Cogan would ask if they had seen the Times article and several lied when he asked. ‘We all denied it, obviously,’ the unnamed juror said.”
“If a justice system’s measure is how it treats the most reviled and unpopular, then ours may have failed Joaquin Guzman by denying him the fair trial before an untainted jury to which he’s constitutionally entitled,” Guzman’s attorneys stated.
They want a hearing to examine whether there was juror misconduct.
Guzman’s lawyers continued in their motion, “Because sunlight is the best disinfectant, that prospect merits serious consideration, close investigation and a new trial as appropriate.”
The defense team also accused jurors of “cannily lying” to the judge when he asked them about their exposure to media coverage in Guzman’s case.
The juror who spoke to Vice News requested anonymity “for obvious reasons” and declined to provide a real name. The juror had also noted that all of them hadn’t share their identities with one another. A hearing would mean that these jurors could be questioned themselves, however, regarding the allegations against them.