Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman will be tried in New York on Monday. He is accused of leading the world's largest drug cartel and spending a quarter of a century smuggling more than 155 tons of cocaine into the United States.
The Brooklyn mammoth trial, which will cost millions of dollars and is expected to last more than four months, will confront one of the world's most prominent criminals before the US judiciary.
The prosecution has for years assembled a far-reaching case against Guzman, who was extradited in 2017 after escaping twice from Mexico's jail – initially hidden in a laundry cart and then slipped through a tunnel that reached his prison shower.
Experts say the government has an almost watertight case, which will bring Guzman, 61, for the rest of his life in a US prison with maximum security after the selection of jurors began on Monday. But at what price?
The Sinaloa cartel that Guzman founded in 1989 is still enormously strong. His co-defendant Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada remains at large and the violent drug trafficking in Mexico continues unabated.
Mexico had a record 29,000 killings last year. Opioid addiction has become an epidemic in the United States. In 2016, an average of 174 Americans died from overdose daily.
The selection of the jury is made in the strictest security, which is reserved only for the most dangerous defendants. Brian Cogan, a federal judge, will preside behind closed doors.
– & # 39; the most expensive study in history & # 39; –
The 12 jurors with six substitutes remain anonymous. US Marshals will take them to federal court every day.
These ordinary men and women will find out whether or not Guzman – the small father of two children whose nickname means "shorty", is guilty of 11 human trafficking, firearms and money laundering.
According to the indictment, the Sinaloa cartel, which Guzman had led from 1989 to 2014, became "the largest drug smuggling organization in the world … with thousands of members."
US prosecutors claim that the cartel smuggled at least 154,826 kg of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, and racked up $ 14 billion from 1989 to 2014.
Guzman does not plead guilty, but the government has put forward so much evidence – more than 300,000 pages and at least 117,000 audio recordings – that the defense complains that they do not have enough time to review everything.
"It's probably the most expensive trial in US history," says Rob Heroy, a North Carolina lawyer who has defended other Mexican drug lords. The price tag includes protection programs for at least some of the several hundred witnesses expected to testify.
Even Guzman's lawyers are in the dark about all the former employees, employees or rivals who have become informers.
– informants –
Some of the informants have already been included in the US Witness Protection Program due to new identities. Others are already in prison, housed in special wings to protect them from reprisals.
Guzman has been held in solitary confinement in New York since he was extradited by Mexico in January 2017, the day before Donald Trump took office. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell.
The only visitors to whom he is allowed are his lawyers and twin, seven-year-old daughters, from whom he is separated by thick glass.
The judge has banned his 29-year-old beauty queen Emma Coronel's visit. Instead, she participated in almost all court hearings and showed him kisses from the gallery.
El Chapo was first arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and spent more than seven years in a Mexican prison before fleeing in 2001.
Detained again in February 2014 by Mexican Marines, he escaped again 14 months later.
Guzman was arrested again in January 2016 following a visit by Hollywood actor Sean Penn and a Mexican actress who wanted to make a movie about his life, and allowed the Mexican authorities to track down his whereabouts.
This time, Mexico decided to wash its hands and put it on a plane.
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman (C) is escorted by the Mexican police to the border town of Ciudad Juarez when he is extradited to the United States in January 2017
Guzman, pictured here in January 2016 after his withdrawal, is accused of leading the largest drug cartel in the world
Guzman is taken to the US District Court on October 10, 2018 after a court raid by a police force across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan Prison
Emma Coronel Aispuro, wife of Guzman, has participated in almost all her husband's hearings and shown him kisses from the gallery