El Chapo’s “Trial Of The Century” Started Last Month And Here’s Everything You Should Know About It
Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s greatest fear became true in January 2017, when he was extradited to the United States. For years, the kingpin had escaped US courts by staying in his native Mexico and staging two spectacular escapes from prison. However, and perhaps due to a Twitter war where he threatened incoming US president Donald Trump, the Mexican authorities expedited his extradition. He has been locked in a maximum security prison in New York since then.
His long-awaited trial started on November 5 and all signs point to a very long and very complicated judicial processes. Thousands of files and pieces of evidence will be presented by the defense and the prosecutors, and chances are the jury will feel overwhelmed by all the information. The trial will highlight the contradictory public persona that El Chapo has in Mexico and the US: some see him as a ruthless criminal while others, particularly in his native state of Sinaloa, see him as a righteous messiah who is providing for his people what the Mexican State hasn’t.
Here’s 21 facts about the trial and what has happened so far.
1. His wife Emma Coronel Aspurio has been documenting the trial on Instagram
If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the trial you can follow Emma’s Insta account, were she narrates her life in Brooklyn while her husband’s fate is determined. She constantly declares her eternal love for the capo.
2. El Chapo is defended by lawyers Jeffrey Lichtman, Eduardo Balarezo and William Púrpura
The experiences litigators will try to convince the jury that El Chapo is not as bad as the popular myth, the authorities and the media has made everyone believe. This will be a hard task given the trail of chaos that the Sinaloan has left in his wake.
3. According to the prosecutor El Chapo has smuggled 154,626 kilos of cocaine to the US
El Chapo started dealing with Mary Jane in his early days in the Guadalajara Cartel, but soon struck a deal with Colombian producers and started smuggling cocaine, following on the criminal legacy of Pablo Escobar.
4. The prosecution has provided 300,000 pages of documents and at least 117,000 audio recordings
Our head hurts just thinking about going through all that material. One of the prosecutor’s strategies is to overwhelm the jury and dump a mountain of evidence that just by its sheer volume would be hard to doubt.
5. The defense claims that the real leader of the Sinaloa Cartel is Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada
According to the defense, Chapo is just second in command and the criminal organization is really run by his compadre, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who has never been caught by the authorities.
6. Key witness identities are a secret
Every day could bring a surprise, as the identities of the key witnesses and informants has been kept secret, and not even El Chapo’s legal team knows what to expect.
7. Prior to his trial, Chapo spent 23 hours a day alone in his cell
Perhaps due to his past history of extravagant escapes, El Chapo has spent almost two years in complete isolation. He can only be visited by his twin 7-year-old daughters and by his lawyers. Not even his wife Emma can talk to him.
8. But he did blow a kiss to his wife in court
According to accounts and sketch art, El Chapo blew a kiss to his wife as soon as he lay eyes on her in court. Kinda romantic and tragic.
9. The trial will cost more than $50 million USD
According to his lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, El Chapo’s trial will be the most expensive in the history of legal procedures in the United States.
10. Jeffrey Lichtman has also defended the Italian mafia
Lichtman is an experienced litigator who was able to somewhat successfully defend Italian mafia mogul John Gotti Jr (a kind of real life badass Tony Soprano).
11. The jury is made up by 7 women and 5 men
The identities of these 12 US citizens is of course a secret. It will be an experience to remember, that’s for sure.
12. 3 juries speak Spanish, at least 3 are immigrants
The powers that be wanted diversity in the jury, and we know that some of them are Spanish speakers, a key characteristic as most of the witness accounts will be likely provided in Spanish.
13. A jury member was dismissed because he wanted to get Chapo’s autograph
A jury member from Colombia stressed the fact that he was a bit of a fan of the drug lord, so he was obviously dismissed because there was no way he could be 100% impartial.
14. Chapo is accused of 11 criminal charges
These charges are related to drug trafficking, money laundering and the illegal use of weapons. Some of these charges are likely to be dropped as the trial progresses.
15. El Chapo’s defense has accused two former Mexican presidents of accepting bribes
Yes, this trial has stirred the dark waters of corruption in Mexico. The defense has accused former president Felipe Calderón and current president (he finishes on December 1st) Enrique Peña Nieto of being paid off by the almighty Sinaloa Cartel.
16. And they have obviously denied the accusations
Enrique Peña Nieto’s office vehemently denied the accusations, while the ex president Felipe Calderón wrote in his Twitter account: “The accusations made by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s lawyer are totally false and bold. Not him, not the Sinaloa Cartel, no one paid me off”.
17. And he has also accused the DEA!
Chapo’s lawyer argues that Zambada is the real mastermind of the Sinaloa Cartel and that he has paid off the Mexican Army, federal policy and even the Drug Enforcement Agency from the United States. Big claim!
18. “Mayo” Zambada’s brother, Jesús Zambada, has been a key witness
Already held in captivity by US authorities, Jesús Zambada a.k.a. El Rey, has been a key witness as he knows how the cartel operates inside and out.
19. And he has implicated numerous government officials
When Zambada opened his mouth the political establishment in Mexico shook. He has described how bags full of cash were supposedly handed over to officials at all levels of government. He has provided a detailed list and of course everyone was quick to deny the accusations. A pretty The Godfather moment.
20. A key witness, Héctor Beltrán Leyva, died of a heart attack in Mexico
El Chapo’s lawyer says that the fatal cardiac arrest was triggered by the possibility of being extradited to the United States and being a witness in the trial. He died while being transferred to another prison. His death has been the source of multiple conspiracy theories. The plot thickens!
21. Sit comfortably… the trial could last up to 4 or 5 months
A lot of new witnesses and a mounting amount of evidence will be put in front of the jury before the trial of the century finishes. We will keep you posted.