Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán will request a new trial after media reports emerged that at least one juror, and possibly others, violated trial rules by reading media coverage of the legal proceedings, USA Today is reporting.
The 61-year-old former leader of Mexico’s deadly Sinaloa cartel was convicted last week of drug trafficking, weapons violations, and of operating a continuing criminal operation. When he is sentenced, the drug trafficker — who has twice escaped from high-security Mexican prisons — could wind up spending the rest of his life behind bars.
However, Guzmán’s attorney, Eduardo Balarezo, says that at least one juror broke trial rules — and thus, his client’s trial was tainted by jury misconduct.
“Mr. Guzmán intends to file a motion for a new trial based on the disclosures in the article and to request an evidentiary hearing to determine the extent of the misconduct.”
On Monday, Vice News published an article entitled, “Inside El Chapo’s Jury: A Juror Speaks For The First Time About Convicting The Kingpin.” In the article, an anonymous juror mentions that he or she — and at least five others — routinely violated the orders of Judge Brian Cogan, one of which was to not read media coverage of the trial.
“You know how we were told we can’t look at the media during the trial? Well, we did. Jurors did.”
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 22, 2019
Specifically, says the juror, he/she and others looked at Twitter feeds from journalists carrying the story. One feed that was allegedly reviewed was that of Keegan Hamilton, the Vice News writer who interviewed the juror and wrote the article cited in the above paragraph.
“We would constantly go to your media, your Twitter… I personally and some other jurors that I knew.”
It bears noting that, because the identities of the jurors are kept secret — and because Vice News was unable to contact any of the other jurors — it is impossible for Vice to verify or corroborate this particular juror’s account of the trial.
Under the legal procedures in place in federal courts, a defense attorney has 14 days following a verdict to file a request for a retrial. That means that the deadline for such a filing would be February 26 — next Tuesday. However, Guzmán’s defense team plans to file a motion to extend that deadline by thirty days, so that they can determine just how extensive the jurors’ reported misconduct was.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York declined to comment on this latest development.