Jury in third day of deliberations in drug cartel boss ‘El Chapo’ trial

WASHINGTON: Jurors in the US trial of accused Mexican drug cartel boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman began their third day of deliberations on Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn.

Guzman, 61, is accused of leading Mexico`s Sinaloa Cartel, which became one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world. He twice escaped from prison in Mexico, and will face the possibility of life in a US prison if convicted.

The 11-week trial, which featured testimony from more than 50 witnesses, offered the public an unprecedented look into the inner workings of the cartel, named for the state in northwest Mexico where Guzman was born in a poor mountain village. 

The 12 jurors began deliberations on Monday afternoon after receiving instructions from US District Judge Brian Cogan. They are seven women and five men whose names have not been disclosed for security reasons. 

On Tuesday afternoon, the jurors asked to hear a phone call in which a man, who prosecutors say is Guzman, discusses selling methamphetamine in the United States, as well as part of one witness`s testimony about importing ephedrine into Mexico to manufacture methamphetamine. The call was played for them, and court stenographers read them a transcript of the testimony.

The jurors had asked on Monday whether ephedrine is considered methamphetamine, and were instructed by US District Judge Brian Cogan to refer to the evidence in the case.

Jurors also asked for the entire testimony of Colombian drug trafficking brothers Jorge and Alex Cifuentes, both of whom testified at length against Guzman. Because their testimony spanned several days, Cogan said he would give them written transcripts, which are expected to be ready on Wednesday.

The defense has argued Guzman was set up as a “fall guy” by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a drug kingpin from Sinaloa who remains at large. At least three jurors are immigrants, three are Spanish speakers and several have ties to law enforcement. 

Almost all of them had heard of Guzman before the trial began, but said they could be impartial. The only exception was a woman from Ethiopia who said she had “no clue” who he was.