Published: Thu, November 08, 2018
World News | By Sandy Lane

El Chapo's U.S. drugs trial kicks off under tight security

El Chapo's U.S. drugs trial kicks off under tight security

Amid heavy security, jury selection began Monday in Brooklyn federal court for the criminal enterprise and conspiracy trial against the legendary accused drug lord whose electrifying escapes from Mexican prisons captured headlines worldwide.

He was extradited to the USA previous year.

As CBS2's Janelle Burrell reported Monday, security will be tight for both Guzman and the potential jurors.

Unlike most Americans who get called for jury duty, those interviewed Monday seemed genuinely eager to serve.

Judge Cogan also raised concerns at the hearing about the prosecutors' planned case at the hearing. If convicted, Guzman faces life in prison.

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Mexico extradited Guzman to the United States in 2017, and ever since he has been held in solitary confinement at a NY federal prison.

The now imprisoned brothers paid a steep price for flipping: Prosecutors say in 2009 their father was murdered in Mexico by a cartel hit team. US Marshals will escort them to and from court every day.

Joaquin Guzman is accused of laundering billions of dollars through his alleged drug cartel, and overseeing a campaign of brutal murders and kidnappings. Prosecutors have also sought to hide the identity of cooperating witnesses out of concerns the cartel could seek retribution, while a judge is keeping the jury anonymous to protect them from intimidation.

Guzman's co-defendant Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada remains at large.

One juror was excused after she said she couldn't be impartial, saying, 'I feel very bad about drugs'.

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USA authorities have described the group as one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world.

It is alleged that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled at least 340,892 pounds (154,626 kilograms) of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $14bn (£11bn).

El Chapo made world headlines in July 2015 when he slipped out of his cell at the maximum security Altiplano federal prison via a mile-long underground tunnel.

At least some of the several hundred witnesses expected to testify are in witness protection programs or are already in jail, housed in special wings to protect them from reprisals.

The only visitors he is allowed are his lawyers and twin, seven-year-old daughters, from whom he is separated by thick glass.

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Security for the trial is expected to be high, and not just for Guzman who escaped twice from Mexican prisons. Mexican authorities then recaptured the fugitive in January 2016.

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