NEW YORK – The jury in the federal trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman began deliberations on Monday after listening to more than three hours of instructions from US District Judge Brian Cogan.
The acting US attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, was present for the session at a federal court in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, where the trial as unfolded since mid-November.
Cogan reviewed for the seven women and five men of the jury each of the 10 drug-trafficking and conspiracy charges brought against Guzman, providing the legal definitions of conspiracy and the distinction between circumstantial and direct evidence, among other points.
Before instructing them, the judge asked whether any of the jurors had been exposed over the weekend to media reports about the highest-profile drug prosecution in US history.
He was apparently referring to the publication on Saturday of a document that remained sealed during the trial citing a witness who said that the Sinaloa Cartel boss had drugged and sexually assaulted girls as young as 13.
Prosecutors said they decided not to use the testimony because they were not confident of the witness’s reliability. Guzman’s attorneys denied the accusation on their client’s behalf.
The jurors, whose identities have been kept secret for their safety, heard from nearly 60 witnesses, including a range of experts and associates of Guzman.
Chapo faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charges.
The prosecution alleges that Guzman oversaw the smuggling of thousands of tons of drugs into the United States, laundering massive sums of money through US financial institutions and ordered dozens of murders.
Missing from the courtroom on Monday was Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel, who was present most days during the trial, including for sessions where one of Chapo’s ex-mistresses took the stand.
The 61-year-old Guzman, who twice escaped from maximum-security prisons in Mexico, was captured in January 2016 in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state, in January 2016 and extradited to the United States on Jan. 19, 2017.
Chapo amassed substantial wealth that led to his name regularly appearing on Forbes magazine’s list of global billionaires and the court in Brooklyn heard testimony from one of Guzman’s closest aides that he made a $100 million payoff to former Mexican President Enrique Peńa Nieto, who denied the claim.