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El Chapo trial draws 1,000 potential jurors with Brooklynites in the pool

Army of potential panelists is more than 10 times larger than normal

April 17, 2018 By Paul Frangipane Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will face a Brooklyn trial where prosecutors accuse him of running an international criminal enterprise. AP file photo by Eduardo Verdugo
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Everybody’s in the pool!

Brooklynites will be thrown into a pool of around 1,000 potential jurors needed to seat a jury to decide the fate of alleged Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman when his trial begins in September in Brooklyn federal court, a federal judge confirmed Tuesday.

Judge Brian Cogan accepted — but was also awed by — the sheer size of the jury pool requested by both prosecutors and Guzman’s defense team for the trial expected to last up to four months.

“I don’t know if that’s ever been done before, but we’ll do it,” Cogan said in court as Guzman, 60, stared at his wife in the audience.

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In fact, large jury pools have been convened for prior federal trials, including those of cop killer Ronell Wilson, Bonanno crime boss Vincent Basciano and late Gambino boss John Gotti, according to the Daily News.

The prospective jurors — all residents of the Eastern District of New York, which comprises Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Staten Island — will be given a 20-page questionnaire to fill out on July 31, defense attorney William Purpura said. Eventually, 12 jurors and six alternates will be seated.

Citing Guzman’s alleged violent past of hiring hitmen to carry out hundreds of murders, assaults and kidnappings, Cogan previously ordered the trial’s jurors be anonymous. U.S. Marshals will also escort jurors to and from the courthouse daily during the trial, which is common in high-profile cases involving allegedly violent suspects. Defense attorney Eduardo Balarezo opposed an anonymous jury, arguing jurors would become biased against the suspect simply because their identities were being concealed from him. 

Guzman is accused of heading the Sinaloa Cartel, trafficking cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine internationally, including into New York. His indictment pins him with criminal enterprise, international drug trafficking and kidnapping, among a slew of other charges.

Officials extradited the cartel leader to New York in Jan. 2017 after he previously escaped from two high-security Mexican prisons.

During his time in solitary confinement at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, he has complained repeatedly about his deteriorating mental health.

Outside the courthouse, his wife Emma Coronel Aispuro, breifly told reporters in Spanish she was worried about Guzman’s health and is only able to see him when he comes to court.

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