For a long time, "El Chapo" Guzmán was one of the most wanted criminals in the world. Now the ex-drug lord in New York is on trial. Under the highest security precautions, jurors are searched first.
By Kai Clement, ARD Studio New York
January 20, 2017: A man named Donald Trump takes office as US President. And a man named Joaquín Guzmán was punctually delivered from Mexico to the US the day before. So now there are over a dozen prosecutors, drug investigators and investigators in the Brooklyn district court. For a long time they have been waiting for this moment. And on this man. Now they have got him.
Accommodation in the "Guantánamo of New York"
Since the 1990s, the US wanted the extradition of Guzmán, called "El Chapo", but also "El Rapido" or "Shorty", the "Short". In the 33-page indictment submitted by prosecutor Robert L. Capers, it says, "Guzman's destructive and murderous rise as an international drug trafficker is similar to that of a small tumor to a conflagration."
That's almost two years ago. Since then, "El Chapo" has been sitting in the so-called "Guantánamo of New York", the maximum security prison just steps away from the Brooklyn Bridge. The was regularly blocked so that the defendant could be brought to court hearings in the neighboring district. Police and ambulances, special forces and helicopters should not leave any loopholes for the escape king.
"Self-made man" and family man?
This is a prejudice, complained Guzmán's lawyers and wanted a process relocation. They also complained about the conditions of detention. And they finally complained about lack of time to prepare for the felony case.
"He was only up to third grade at school," says his defender William Purpura of the newspaper "Baltimore Sun" about his exceptional client. "A self-made man, he says he was 'in business' – but that was a long time ago, he's the father of two young kids, easy to handle, intelligent, used to people listening to him."
Twelve jurors from up to 1000 candidates
Listening and then committing cruel offenses – that's what the prosecutors think. At the same time, Judge Brian Cogan made it clear that Brooklyn was about a drug case involving murder. Not the other way around. The prosecution wants to have evidence for more than 30 plots to kill. It is questionable how much the judge allows in the course of the proceedings.
In case of a conviction, "El Chapo" is bound to be life threatening, prosecutor Capers says. "His life is all about crime, violence, death and destruction, and now he gets the answer."
The opening speeches are scheduled for November 13th. The jurors should remain anonymous for the protection of their own safety during the trial, so judge Cogan has decided. Today, for the time being, "only" the selection of jurors from at least 800 to 1000 candidates begins. A foretaste, not just of a defendant like no one else, but of a process like no other.