The trial of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who is accused of running the world's biggest drug cartel, is about to begin in the U.S. with anonymous jurors and high security.
U.S. prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Guzman directed the worldwide trafficking of multi-ton shipments of drugs, including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine.
Prosecutors say they believe they can prove he was also involved in a 1992 shootout at a nightclub that left six people dead. The 12 jurors and six alternate jurors chosen will be escorted to and from the courthouse by armed USA marshals.
Prosecutors, defence lawyers, and US District Judge Brian Cogan will start by choosing jurors for what is expected to be a four-month trial. Opening statements in the trial are expected November 13.
One potential juror was excused after she indicated the case made her feel unsafe.
After Felix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, Guzman's Sinaloa cartel began its meteoric rise.
"What scares me is that his family could come after jurors and their families", one of the women told the court, just feet away from where Guzman was sitting, saying she felt "nervous" and "unsafe".
"It's probably set up to be the most expensive trial in the history of the USA", said Rob Heroy, a North Carolina lawyer who has defended other Mexican drug barons.
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.
Recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico on January 8, 2016.
Last year, Mexico witnessed a record 29,000 murders.
Guzman is pleading not guilty but the government has presented a wealth of evidence that includes more than 300,000 pages and at least 117,000 audio recordings.
After Guzman was brought to NY, authorities here decided he should be housed in solitary confinement in a high-security wing of a federal jail in Manhattan that has held notorious terrorists and mobsters.
Potential jurors were quizzed Monday about their attitudes on drug trafficking and how much attention they have paid to news reports about Joaquin Guzman (wah-KEEN' gooz-MAHN'). He spends 23 hours a day in his cell. Guzman was re-captured in January 2016 after a visit from Hollywood actor Sean Penn and a Mexican actress, who wanted to make a film about his life, allowed Mexican authorities to trace his whereabouts.
The only visitors he is allowed are his lawyers and twin, seven-year-old daughters, from whom he is separated by thick glass. Re-arrested by Mexican marines in February 2014, he escaped again 14 months later.
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