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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Jury Considers Fate of Mexican Drug Kingpin

Politics

7Dnews London

Tue, 05 Feb 2019 13:15 GMT

The fate of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is currently in the hands of a New York jury who began discussions on February 4th after a three-month trial that revealed the loves, schemes, and escapes of Mexico's most famous drug dealer.

The ten charges relate to smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana into the United States over a 25-year period and include  money laundering and illegal possession of weapons. Guzman faces possible life in prison if found guilty.

Before instructing the jury, Judge Brian Cogan asked whether any of them had read or heard about an "offensive or suspect article" related to the trial.

He was referring to a prosecution document, leaked after last week's closing arguments, that quotes one of the 14 prosecution witnesses, former Colombian drug trafficker Alex Cifuentes, as saying that Chapo, 61, drugged and raped girls as young as 13, regarding them as "vitamins" to stay young. Cifuentes made no mention of the alleged rapes during his four days of testimony against his former associate.

Guzman, dressed in a dark suit and tie, listened quietly to the court proceedings, alert to his surroundings as he has been from the first day.

His young wife, Emma Coronel, who attended every day of the trial, arrived shortly after the start of deliberations.

"I have no opinion on the verdict you'll have to reach," Judge Cogan told the jurors. "I have no dog in this fight," before adding, "remember you took an oath...to reach a verdict solely based on the evidence."

In his closing argument, Guzman's lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman asked the jury not to convict on the basis of the "garbage" testimony of government witnesses. He contended that Guzman was merely a "scapegoat," and that the real culprit in the drug trafficking operations was Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, the co-founder of the Sinaloa cartel.

"Mayo has been the largest narco trafficker for decades in Mexico. He has never been arrested. He has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to stay free," Lichtman said.

The government presented 56 witnesses and troves of incriminating materials, including intercepted calls between Guzman and his associates, and conversations taped secretly by informants.

"Do not let him escape responsibility. Hold him accountable for his crimes. Find him guilty on all counts," US assistant attorney Andrea Goldbarg said in her closing arguments on Wednesday.

The defence team’s strategy centred on attacking the credibility of cooperating witnesses—former secretaries, pilots, cocaine suppliers, Guzman's top trafficker in the United States, a manager, an accountant, a former communications chief, and even a former lover. Most are serving prison sentences and hoped to have their penalties reduced in return for their cooperation with prosecutors.

"Those witnesses not only admitted to lying every day of their lives, their miserable, selfish lives—they lied to you here in the courtroom," Lichtman said.

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