New York appeals court hears claims of jury bias at 'El Chapo' trial

Lawyer for Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’ asks appeals court to overturn his conspiracy conviction because jury ignored warnings not to read media coverage and were exposed to claim that he sexually abused girls

  • Drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s attorneys said the court should order a new trial or at least call for a hearing on the alleged jury misconduct
  • The argument resonated with New York 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Gerard E. Lynch, who said it was ‘a not bad argument’
  • ‘The guy is going to be in a box for the rest of his life,’ Fernich said. ‘I’m not asking you to play violins for him. This is his last shot,’ said attorney Marc Fernich 
  • The three-judge panel will rule at a later date
  • Guzman was sentenced in 2019 to life in jail for a two-decade drug conspiracy that spread murder and mayhem 

Notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s lawyers asked an appeal court to overturn his US conspiracy conviction arguing that the jury ignored warnings to avoid media accounts of the case.    

Guzman’s attorney, Marc Fernich, said the court should order a new trial or at least call for a hearing on the alleged jury misconduct. 

Fernich’s oral arguments before the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, resonated with Circuit Judge Gerard E. Lynch, who said it was ‘a not bad argument.’

‘The guy is going to be in a box for the rest of his life,’ Fernich said. ‘I’m not asking you to play violins for him. This is his last shot.’

‘This is serious stuff,’ the judge later added.

Guzman’s attorney said the New York 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals should order a new trial or at least call for a hearing on the alleged jury misconduct. Pictured is ‘El Chapo’ being escorted by soldiers during a presentation in Mexico City, January 8, 2016

Guzman’s attorney, Marc Fernich (pictured), said the court should order a new trial or at least call for a hearing on the alleged jury misconduct

Fenich asked the three-judge panel on Monday to resist any ‘punitive impulse’ toward someone who was cast as a ‘public enemy’ like gangster Al Capone.  

El Chapo’s defense cited a news report that during deliberations jurors were exposed to salacious claims that were barred from the trial, including that Guzman sexually abused girls he referred to as ‘vitamins’ that gave him energy.  

Assistant US Attorney Hiral Mehta argued there was no valid evidence of misconduct and the lower court should reject the defense request for a hearing on the jury issue. 

Mehta said the Vice News report – based on a post-conviction interview with a juror who wasn’t named – amounted to ‘hearsay and double hearsay.’

Hearsay is often inadmissible in court as it can not be adequately substantiated. 

Guzman was sentenced in 2019 to life behind bars for a massive drug conspiracy that spread murder and mayhem for more than two decades.

The three-judge panel will rule at a later date. Guzman was sentenced in 2019 to life in jail for a two-decade drug conspiracy that spread murder and mayhem. In this July 17, 2019 file photo of a courtroom sketch, ‘El Chapo,’ second from right, listens to his sentence 

The judges, while sounding open to the arguments about potential juror prejudice, showed less patience with another claim that Guzman’s defense was unfairly hindered by the strict terms of confinement. (File picture) 

Before the federal case, he had attained near-mythical status by escaping from prison twice in Mexico, the second time through a tunnel dug into the shower of his cell. 

He was recaptured and sent in 2017 to the United States and put in solitary confinement.

At trial, Guzman’s lawyers argued he was the fall guy for other kingpins who were better at paying off top Mexican politicians and law enforcement officials to protect them.

The judges, while sounding open to the arguments about potential juror prejudice, showed less patience with another claim that Guzman’s defense was unfairly hindered by the strict terms of confinement that were imposed in response to his reputation as an escape artist.

Lynch challenged Fernich’s characterization that Guzman was thrown into a ‘modern dungeon,’ pointing out that his lawyers had constant access to him leading up to the trial.

‘He’s not isolated from the world,’ Lynch said. ‘He’s seeing people on a regular basis.’

The panel will rule at a later date.

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