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After months, El Chapo jury finally headed home

February 12, 2019 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle

As the trial of notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman unfolded in a Brooklyn courtroom, the whole world was watching — but none, perhaps, more closely than the 12 people from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island who sat on the jury.

Their three-and-a-half-month journey ended on Tuesday, when they announced that they had found El Chapo guilty on all 10 counts of drug trafficking at the federal court in Downtown Brooklyn.

For the jurors, the excitement of the trial began a week before opening statements.

Jury selection started in U.S. District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan’s courtroom on Monday, Nov. 5. By Wednesday, Nov. 7, the prosecution and defense teams agreed on 12 jurors and six alternates.

Prosecutors charged Guzman with dozens of drug-trafficking crimes and accused him of raking in nearly $14 billion as the boss of the Sinaloa cartel. As Judge Cogan wrote in one ruling, this trial was unprecedented; extreme measures were taken to protect the jury.

The judge ruled that the jury was to be kept anonymous and partly sequestered for the trial’s duration. Although this was not a murder trial, prosecutors believe Guzman to be responsible for a long list of deaths.

Nobody would know the names of the prospective jurors or anything else about them, like where they are from or where they work. Jurors were also escorted by U.S. Marshals to and from the Eastern District courthouse.

Defense attorneys made motions against an anonymous jury placed under high-profile protection, which, they claimed, would create prejudice against Guzman. However, Judge Cogan maintained that such measures were necessary.

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Approximately 920 potential jurors filled out a questionnaire. One hundred were asked to come into court and were questioned in groups of 20. One potential juror was dismissed by Judge Cogan because, as a Michael Jackson impersonator, the judge feared he could be too easily identified.

Most potential jurors who were dismissed early on were dismissed because of the potential financial hardship the undertaking would create. The trial ended up lasting three and a half months. Jurors get paid $40 per day in federal court.

Finally, 12 jurors were chosen. Two needed to be immediately replaced on the day the trial was set to begin.

After sitting through months of testimony, it took the jury more than a week to come to a verdict. The jury often requested hundreds, and even thousands, of pages of testimony to review while they deliberated.

Finally, on Tuesday, those jurors got to go home, while the man known as El Chapo will likely spent the rest of his life inside a U.S. Federal Prison.

 

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that six jurors were chosen by Nov. 7. There were 12. 

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