NEW YORK – The jury in the US federal trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman ended their fifth day of deliberations on Monday by asking the judge for clarification of a point of law.
“Does a violation have to be proven or not proven unanimously?” the eight women and four men said in a note to US District Judge Brian Cogan.
The first – and most serious – of the charges facing Guzman is directing a continuing criminal enterprise, comprising 27 violations ranging from drug trafficking to ordering murders.
The latest query to the judge from the jury room at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, appeared to indicate that some of the jurors were having doubts about two individual cocaine shipments attributed to the Chapo-led Sinaloa Cartel.
Jurors asked to hear testimony given during the trial by a former US Drug Enforcement Administration about cocaine shipments seized between 2004-2008.
In response to the question on the point of law, Cogan consulted with the prosecutors and defense attorneys and decided to remind jurors of the instructions they received at the start of deliberations: that conviction on the first count of the indictment required unanimous agreement on at least three violations.
A guilty verdict on the charge of running a criminal enterprises carries with it a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Guzman, clad in a dark suit and striped tie, appeared upbeat in interactions with his lawyers and gestured to his wife, Emma Coronel, sitting in the gallery.
The prosecution alleges that Guzman oversaw the smuggling of thousands of tons of drugs into the United States, laundered massive sums of money through US financial institutions and ordered dozens of murders.
More than 50 witnesses took the stand during the course of the 11-week trial and most observers expected the jury to reach a verdict within one or two days.
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 Peña Nieto, who denied the claim.