NEW YORK (Reuters) – Twelve New Yorkers were voted into the jury on Wednesday to decide on the fate of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, whose trial for drug trafficking in the US will begin next week.
FILE PHOTO: Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's Defense Attorney Eduardo Balarezo speaks to the media outside the United States district for the eastern district of New York in New York's Brooklyn neighborhood on October 30, 2018. REUTERS / Carlo Allegri / File Photo
Among the seven women and five men are at least three immigrants, three Spanish-speaking persons and several persons involved in law enforcement. Almost all had heard of Guzman, but said they could be impartial.
"We are satisfied with the jury selected," said Eduardo Balarezo, one of Guzman's lawyers, to the reporters.
The trial, which can take up to four months, will begin on Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn.
Guzman, 61, has long been known as leader of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel, which has become one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world. His nickname – an indication of his height of 1.67 m (5 feet, 6 inches) – is often translated as "Shorty" in English.
He was extradited to the United States on January 19, 2017, after fleeing twice from Mexican prisons before being retaken.
Guzman's lawyers have indicated that they will try to prove that he played a minor role in the cartel.
US prosecutors say that under the leadership of Guzman, the cartel has led mass drug trafficking, including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine, to the United States. If Guzman is convicted, he will live in prison.
The jurors, who remain anonymous, are taken in and out of the courthouse by armed federal marshals.
The prosecution said security was necessary because Guzman intimidated and even ordered the murder of potential witnesses, while Guzman's lawyers found these allegations unfounded. Several jurors were excused after they had feared to work on the jury.
Viewers included the niece of a former correctional officer, a South Asian man with a son in the New York City Police Department, and a Pole who said her son had substance abuse problems.
Everyone knew about Guzman except for one, a woman from Ethiopia, who said she had "no idea" about him. Six deputy jurors were also selected to replace the jurors who can not complete their service.
US District Judge Brian Cogan warned the jurors not to speak about the case because he dismissed it until Tuesday.
"I'll see you then because I think this will be a very interesting experience for you all," the judge said.
Report by Brendan Pierson in New York, editorial by G Crosse