Cocaine kingpin Joaquín (El Chapo) Guzmán is demanding a new trial, claiming the jurors who convicted him are guilty of a snow job.
In a motion for a new trial filed Tuesday, the Mexican drug lord and his lawyers accused multiple jurors of “actively following and discussing the blizzard of media coverage” during the three-month trial and “falsely denying it upon judicial inquiry.”
An investigation is necessary, they argue, because jurors likely were exposed to “prejudicial” information, “including inadmissible allegations that the defendant drugged and raped 13-year-old girls.”
Chapo, 61, was convicted Feb. 12 of international drug trafficking and federal murder conspiracy charges. Jurors decided he was a “principal” boss of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, triggering a mandatory life sentence.
Eight days after the guilty verdict, Vice News published a bombshell story based on a two-hour video interview with one of the anonymous jurors. The juror reportedly told Vice that at least five jurors followed the case in the media during the trial.
“You know how we were told we can’t look at the media during the trial? Well, we did. Jurors did,” the juror reportedly said.
According to Vice, one juror may have been getting news from a smartwatch worn in the courthouse.
“Reports of jury misconduct, of course, are nothing new in high-profile cases. One factor that sets these apart is a juror’s frank confession that panel members actively sought out and openly discussed the most sensational extrinsic information — including vile allegations that the defendant raped young girls,” Chapo’s lawyer Marc Fernich wrote in the new filing.
He argued the revelations provide ample cause to “declare a mistrial and start afresh.”
“If a justice system’s measure is how it treats the most reviled and unpopular, then ours may have failed Joaquín Guzmán by denying him the fair trial before an untainted jury to which he’s constitutionally entitled,” Fernich wrote.
“Because sunlight is the best disinfectant, that prospect merits serious consideration, close investigation and a new trial as appropriate,” he argued.
U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue responded to the motion by sending a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan asking for an April 29 deadline to file the government’s written response.
Judge Cogan granted the request, so a ruling on Chapo’s motion isn’t expected until after that date.
Defense lawyer A. Eduardo Balarezo said Judge Cogan should order a hearing in which jurors are brought back in for in-person examination.
“Part of the process must include questioning of each individual juror preferably by defense counsel and the court,” Balarezo told the Daily News on Tuesday.
If Cogan calls a hearing and one or more jurors admit the allegations — or refuse to talk — that could set the stage for a costly new trial, either in Brooklyn again or out on Long Island.
The Vice News story declined to say whether the juror who spoke out was an alternate or one of the final 12 panelists who deliberated for six days.
Chapo’s sentencing has been set for June 25.
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