Brooklyn Bridge might shut down to shuttle 'El Chapo' to trial t

Howard TerryNov 08, 2018

The defendant accused of running the massive Sinaloa drug cartel, observed the first day of jury selection dressed in a navy suit, white shirt with a wide disco-style collar, flashing a smile but otherwise impervious.

According to court filings, prosecution witnesses will include former Sinaloa Cartel members and others involved in the drug trade who are now cooperating with the USA government.

The marathon Brooklyn federal trial, which is expected to last more than four months, will see Guzman face the United States justice system after twice escaping prison in Mexico, once hidden in a laundry cart and then slipping down a tunnel that reached his prison shower.

Recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico on January 8, 2016.

US District Judge Brian Cogan, prosecutors and defence lawyers on Monday morning questioned 20 potential jurors, and have so far ruled out five.

Joaquin Guzman is accused of laundering billions of dollars through his alleged drug cartel, and overseeing a campaign of brutal murders and kidnappings.

In his way now is a lineup of government witnesses who survived the wave of violence and are expected to give details about the ruthless way he kept power for 20 years in the cutthroat world of global drug trafficking.

Identities of the 12 selected jurors and six alternates will remain anonymous and they will be escorted to and from the courthouse every day by armed United States marshals. In 2016, an average of 174 Americans died every day from drug overdoses.

U.S. prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel since 2003, Guzman directed the movement of multi-ton shipments of drugs including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine across borders and into the United States. Heroy estimates the trial will cost USA taxpayer "more than $50 million", a price tag that includes protection programs for at least some of the several hundred witnesses expected to testify.

Some of the informants have already been absorbed into the United States witness protection programme and given new identities and homes around the country.

His beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, was barred from the selection process as are all members of the public to protect jurors from any threat. "No one is going to have pictures of him [Guzman] carrying cocaine, taking the suitcase with money", said Heroy.

After Guzman was brought to NY, authorities here decided he should be housed in solitary confinement in a high-security wing of a federal jail in Manhattan that has held notorious terrorists and mobsters.

The only visitors he is allowed are his lawyers and twin, seven-year-old daughters, from whom he is separated by thick glass. Instead, she has attended nearly all his pretrial hearings, waving and blowing him kisses from the gallery.

Re-arrested in February 2014, he escaped again 14 months later.

This time, Mexico chose to wash their hands of him and put him on a plane.

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