Mexico’s ‘El Chapo’ seeks new trial, citing jury misconduct

Guzman’s team said jurors disregarded instructions to avoid the ‘blizzard of media coverage’ before convicting Guzman.

El Chapo
This handout picture released by the Mexican Interior Ministry shows Joaquin Guzman Loera aka 'El Chapo' Guzman escorted in Ciudad Juarez by the Mexican police as he is extradited to the United States [File: Handout/Interior Ministry of Mexico/AFP]

Defence attorneys asked a federal judge on Tuesday to grant a new trial to the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, saying jurors improperly followed media coverage of the sensational drug conspiracy case.

Joaquin Guzman’s defence team said in court filings that jurors repeatedly disregarded instructions to avoid the “blizzard of media coverage” before convicting Guzman of murder conspiracy and drug-trafficking charges last month.

The defence asked US District Judge Brian Cogan to hold an evidentiary hearing in the wake of a Vice News report that said at least five jurors followed media reports and Twitter feeds during the three-month trial.

The attorneys said juror misconduct denied Guzman his right to a fair trial.

“If a justice system’s measure is how it treats the most reviled and unpopular, then ours may have failed Joaquin Guzman by denying him the fair trial before an untainted jury to which he’s constitutionally entitled,” Guzman’s lawyers wrote in a court filing. “Because sunlight is the best disinfectant, that prospect merits serious consideration, close investigation and a new trial as appropriate.”

A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn declined to comment.

The defence motion claims jurors “actively sought out and openly discussed” sensational allegations that had been excluded from Guzman’s proceedings, including a claim by a government witness that Guzman raped girls. The government did not charge Guzman with rape.

The defence team also accused jurors of “cannily lying” to the judge when he asked them about their exposure to media coverage in Guzman’s case.

“We look forward to vindicating his rights in a new trial before a jury that will abide by its oath,” defence lawyer Eduardo Balarezo said in an email.

Guzman faces life in prison at his June sentencing.

Source: AP