Amid heavy security, jury selection began Monday in Brooklyn federal court for the criminal enterprise and conspiracy trial against the legendary accused drug lord whose electrifying escapes from Mexican prisons captured headlines worldwide.
U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, prosecutors and defense lawyers on Monday morning questioned 20 potential jurors, and have so far ruled out five.
The Sinaloa cartel that Guzman founded in 1989 is still hugely powerful.
Identities of the 12 selected jurors and six alternates will remain anonymous and they will be escorted to and from the courthouse every day by armed USA marshals.
Authorities are boosting security for the trial, including keeping confidential the names of the 12 people who will be picked to serve on the jury and the six alternates. Opening statements in the trial are expected November 13. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says he was able to remain a force by communicating with his son and other cartel leaders through lawyers and others who visited him at the Altiplano prison outside Mexico City. "This prosecution demonstrates that we will apply all available resources to dismantle the leadership of unsafe drug cartels, wherever they operate, and will not rest until we have done so'".
One juror was excused after she said she couldn't be impartial, saying, 'I feel very bad about drugs'.
No one's hiding the ominous nature of the case from potential jurors. He's accused of running a massive drug trafficking operation, along with money laundering, kidnapping and murder.
Guzman was extradited to the United States in January 2017 on an indictment that detailed his alleged reign over a merciless trafficking organization controlled through murder and torture. "I think this is indicative of the fact that the Sinaloa cartel has probably infiltrated the drug industry in our country", said PNP spokesman Senior Supt.
After Felix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, Guzman's Sinaloa cartel began its meteoric rise.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges of running a massive drug-trafficking operation in North America, including money laundering, kidnapping and murder in cities throughout the United States, including Chicago, Miami and NY. Due to security concerns, the jurors' identity will be kept secret and they will be guarded by armed marshals on the way from court to home during the expected four-month trial.
Prosecutors say that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled 340,892 pounds (154,626 kilograms) of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $14 billion.
There's now speculation that a special cell for Guzman has been set up in the bowels of the courthouse where he will spend the night after his days in court.