By Brendan Pierson
NEWYORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Wednesday rejected Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s bid for a new trial, finding that misconduct by jurors during the Mexican crime lord’s drug trafficking case was not a reason to overturn their guilty verdict.
Guzman sought a new trial in March after Vice News published an interview of one of the jurors, who said that multiple jurors ignored U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan’s instructions not to read or talk about the case during the 11-week trial in Brooklyn federal court.
According to the Feb. 20 Vice article, the jurors’ misconduct included reading and discussing articles about allegations that Guzman drugged and raped girls as young as 13 years old, accusations that Guzman’s lawyers have denied. Those articles were published just two days before jurors began deliberating.
Cogan wrote Wednesday that there was no reason to think those articles swayed the jury.
“Although different in kind, these allegations of sexual abuse are no more gruesome and prejudicial as the overwhelming amount of evidence that the jury heard and saw about (Guzman) threatening, torturing and murdering people,” the judge wrote.
Cogan also said he would not hold a hearing to investigate juror misconduct further.
Jeffrey Lichtman, Guzman’s lawyer, said in an email: “This isn’t even remotely surprising as we’ve said from the start that the Joaquin Guzman trial was more of an inquisition, a show trial, than an exercise in true American justice.”
He added that “there will always be a stain of injustice on this case as the jury’s rampant misconduct was summarily swept under the rug by the court and the government.”
John Marzulli, a spokesman for the prosecutors, declined to comment on the ruling.
Guzman, 62, was convicted on Feb. 12 on all 10 counts he faced, after jurors heard evidence from more than 50 prosecution witnesses, offering an unprecedented look at the inner workings of his Sinaloa Cartel.
Prosecutors said Guzman trafficked tons of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into the United States over two decades, amassing power in Mexico through murders and wars with rival cartels. He faces life in prison at his scheduled July 17 sentencing.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)