El Chapo to be tried by anonymous jurors in Brooklyn trial
A Brooklyn federal judge ruled on Monday that all prospective and selected jurors trying alleged Mexican drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will be anonymous for their safety and privacy, according to court documents.
In response to prosecutors’ requests that all names, addresses and places of work for jurors be kept secret in the upcoming trial, Judge Brian Cogan ruled there was sufficient argument to go anonymous.
“Here, the government has presented strong and credible reasons to believe that the jury needs protection,” Cogan wrote in his ruling.
Those credible reasons included Guzman’s decades-long history of hiring “sicarios,” or hitmen to carry out hundreds of murders, assaults and kidnappings, including victimizing potential witnesses and those who spoke with law enforcement.
In addition, federal prisoners in California released a video shortly after Guzman’s Jan. 2017 extradition to New York pledging to be the “hitmen” who will protect Guzman, the ruling details.
The defense team, currently led by Eduardo Balarezo, denounced the video as a joke and argued anonymous jurors would create the impression Guzman is a dangerous person.
Cogan also ruled that U.S. Marshals will escort the jurors to the courthouse daily and while in court, they will be isolated from the public.
It is common practice for anonymous jurors to try high-profile violent in nature cases such as this, including terrorism and organized crime cases.
Guzman is accused of heading the Sinaloa Cartel, trafficking cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine across continents. His indictment pins him with criminal enterprise, international drug trafficking and kidnapping amongst other charges.
He’s currently holed up in Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center in solitary confinement until his next Feb. 15 court date.
The trial is expected to begin in September.
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