Notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman will have an anonymous jury at his US trial later this year.
Judge says El Chapo trial jury will be anonymous a year after YouTube video showed a group of ‘hitmen’ pledging loyalty to notorious drug lord while vowing to ‘take care of him’
In a written order, US District Judge Brian Cogan agreed with prosecutors who argued that withholding the names of jurors was needed to address any fears that they could be harassed or intimidated.
Jurors also will be escorted to and from the Brooklyn courthouse by deputy US marshals and sequestered from the public while inside, the judge said.
Prosecutors offered ‘strong and credible reasons’ why the jury needs protections, including Guzman’s use of sicarios, or hitmen, to carry out thousands of acts of violence over more than two decades, the judge wrote in the order, released by the prosecutor’s office on Tuesday.
That history ‘would be sufficient to warrant an anonymous and partially sequestered jury, but that many of the allegations involve murder, assault, kidnapping or torture of potential witnesses or of those suspected of assisting law enforcement makes the government’s concerns particularly salient,’ he said.
Guzman’s attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, said on Tuesday that his client was disappointed by the ruling.
The defense had argued that an anonymous jury would give the false impression that Guzman is dangerous.
‘All he is asking for is a fair trial in front of an impartial jury,’ Balarezo said in a statement.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive international drug trafficking operation.
Since his extradition in January 2017, he has been held in solitary confinement at a high-security federal jail in Manhattan, with US officials mindful of how he twice escaped from prison in Mexico, the second time via a mile-long tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.
In the past, Guzman used his connections to continue to run his drug empire from behind bars, prosecutors said.