'El Chapo' lawyers may challenge conviction over juror remarks

'El Chapo' lawyers may challenge conviction over juror remarks
By Reuters

By Brendan Pierson

NEWYORK (Reuters) – Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman may file a motion challenging his conviction on 10 criminal counts, after a juror told Vice News that jurors read media coverage of the case and discussed it with one another while the trial was going on, one of Guzman’s lawyers said on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan had instructed jurors not to read media coverage of the case or discuss it with one another at the end of every day during the nearly three-month trial that led to Guzman’s convictions in Brooklyn federal court last week.

“The jury clearly ignored the judge’s daily admonitions against not only looking at the press but also had inappropriate communications with each other,” said lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman. “We’re researching the issue now and will make any appropriate motions for relief. Joaquin Guzman deserved a fair trial.”

Guzman, 61, was found guilty last week of running a continuing criminal enterprise, drug trafficking, conspiracy and using firearms as leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, which became one of the world’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations during the 1990s and 2000s.

Despite the judge’s instructions, an anonymous juror in an interview with Vice News published on Wednesday said that he or she and multiple other jurors routinely looked at Twitter posts from journalists covering the case.

The juror said that multiple jurors lied when Cogan asked them directly whether they had read specific media reports related to the case, according to Vice News.

The juror also claimed that the deliberations stretched on for six days because of a single holdout who was uncertain about the charges, and that two jurors essentially refused to take part in the process, Vice News reported.

The juror said that although they were ultimately convinced of Guzman’s guilt, some were reluctant to send him to what is likely to be lifelong solitary confinement.

As part of the extraordinary security measures surrounding the trial, jurors were brought to and from court each day by armed U.S. marshals, and their names were never made public. Prosecutors said the measures were necessary because of Guzman’s history of intimidating witnesses.

Guzman twice escaped from prison in Mexico before his final capture in January 2016. He was extradited to the United States in January 2017.

The Sinaloa Cartel still has the biggest U.S. distribution presence of Mexican cartels, followed by the fast-growing Jalisco New Generation Cartel, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; editing by Bill Berkrot)

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