El Chapo Jury Selection Begins In Trial Of The ‘World’s Most Powerful Drug Trafficker’

The process isn't going to be easy, as almost every potential juror has at least heard of the Mexican drug trafficker.

jury selection begins for el chapo
Charles Reed / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Getty Images

The process isn't going to be easy, as almost every potential juror has at least heard of the Mexican drug trafficker.

Jury selection began Monday for the trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, a process that both the prosecution and defense admit is going to be time-consuming, tedious and difficult.

As CNN reports, potential jurors summoned to a New York City courtroom Monday were first asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire, asking them such questions such as whether or not they have heard of the famed Mexican drug lord. In a perfect world, a criminal defendant would be tried by an impartial jury, not tainted by media coverage of the defendant’s suspected crimes. In practice, when it comes to one of the most notorious drug kingpins in history, that’s going to be all but impossible.

Who Is “El Chapo”?

Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, also known as “El Chapo” (“Shorty”), is one of the most notorious drug traffickers to have ever lived. Born into poverty c. 1957 (his exact date of birth remains unclear), Loera worked his way up through Mexico’s criminal underworld, eventually becoming the boss of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.

What he lacked in size (his five-foot, eight-inch stature got him his nickname), he more than made up for in ruthlessness. A list of Loera’s crimes, both suspected and known, would fill several paragraphs and include countless acts of torture, murder, and other violence.

As is the case with most criminals, the law eventually caught up to Loera – several times, actually. But to the bedevilment of Mexican and U.S. authorities, prisons couldn’t hold him. The escape artist made several dramatic and daring escapes from prison, all covered extensively in the media, before being caught – for what authorities hope will be the final time – in 2016.

What’s He Even Being Tried For?

In January 2017, as CNN reported at the time, Loera was charged money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder in Chicago, Miami, New York, and other cities. He pleaded “not guilty” to all charges.

What All Of This Means For The Jury

Because of the high-profile nature of this case, the identities of the jurors will be kept under lock-and-key. What’s more, they’re expected to be sequestered – meaning that they are essentially confined to the courtroom and a hotel room for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last months. They’ll be transferred to and from the courthouse by armed U.S. Marshals.

Loera’s defense attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, says that having the jurors sequestered and under armed guard at all times could be “prejudicial” to his client, and could convince them that he’s guilty absent the facts presented at the trial.

If convicted on all counts, Loera, who is likely already in his early to mid 60’s, will spend the remainder of his life in prison.