After hearing nearly three months of testimony, a New York jury is set Monday to begin deliberations in the drug-smuggling case against infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The jurors heard testimony from more than 50 prosecution witnesses about the 61-year-old Guzman’s rise to power as head of the Sinaloa drug cartel.
Prosecutors allege that he oversaw the smuggling of 200 tons of cocaine into the United States over two decades and was responsible for a wave of killings in turf battles with other cartels.
He is perhaps best known for escaping twice from Mexican prisons before being captured a third time three years ago. The U.S. Treasury Department considered him to be the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world.”
In closing arguments last week, U.S. prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg said Guzman was plotting yet another prison breakout when he was sent in 2017 to the U.S., where he’s been held in solitary confinement ever since.
She said El Chapo — “The Shorty” in Spanish, for his diminutive stature — wanted to escape again “because he is guilty and he never wanted to be in a position where he would have to answer for his crimes.”
Guzman’s lawyers only presented one witness in his defense. But they said his role has been exaggerated by cooperating government witnesses who are seeking leniency in their own cases. Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman called the prosecution case a “fantasy” and urged the jury not to believe cooperators who “lie, steal, cheat, deal drugs and kill people.”
The jury deciding Guzman’s fate comprises seven women and five men, but for security reasons, their identities have not been disclosed.
If convicted, Guzman faces life in prison.