Prosecutors don’t think Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman should get a new trial, or that jurors should be brought back to court for an evidentiary hearing to see if there was any juror misconduct during the Mexican drug lord’s nearly three-month trial, according to a court filing Monday.
Guzman, once the leader of a murderous drug cartel in Mexico, was convicted in February of running a continuing criminal enterprise and other drug-related charges. He will be sentenced on June 25.
In March, Guzman’s attorneys asked US District Judge Brian Cogan to call the 18 jurors back for an evidentiary hearing to find out if there had been juror misconduct, and for a new trial.
Their concerns came after a February Vice News article that published excerpts of an interview with an anonymous juror, who claimed that “at least five fellow jurors violated the judge’s orders by following the case in the media during the trial” and lied to Cogan when asked if they’d been exposed to news coverage that detailed parts of the case that were meant to be excluded from the trial.
In Monday’s filing, prosecutors said the court’s repeated instruction to jurors, their diligence during the trial, and overwhelming evidence against Guzman show that “the alleged media exposure did not prejudice the defendant.”
Prosecutors point out that the Vice News article does not raise any concerns about the juror believing Guzman is innocent and that the jury wrongfully convicted him.
CNN has reached out to Vice News for comment.
Prosecution: circumstances don’t justify a new trial
Sealed portions of the filing discuss parts of the seated jurors’ responses to questionnaires that show that a number of them were familiar with Guzman, but that each juror confirmed that they would be able to keep an open mind and only consider evidence heard during the trial.
The filing also talks about evidence that jurors took their oath seriously, including an incident in January when a juror “self-reported” being exposed to media to the court.
Jurors deliberated for six days and sent back 14 notes to the court during deliberations, which prosecutors say, shows the jury “was diligently reviewing and scrutinizing evidence.”
Prosecutors say there are “no extraordinary circumstances justifying a new trial” and that Guzman’s arguments for a new trial and hearing to question jurors are based on “the anonymous, unsworn, uncorroborated, heresy and double-heresy allegations” from the Vice News article, adding that they don’t meet the strict standard for a post-trial hearing.
Reacting to the filing, El Chapo’s defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said the government is “desperate to avoid a hearing which would include testimony from the jurors.”
“They know full well it will reveal that the jurors systematically lied to the judge regarding their claims of not seeing any media coverage during the trial. The Chapo Guzman case has always been nothing more than a glorified inquisition and the government’s refusal to simply hear from the jurors seals it. That an anonymous juror, knowing full well that what he told the Vice News reporter could get him or her locked up, still took the chance to tell the truth about the massive jury misconduct during the trial – and yet the government wishes to bury its head in the sand, along with justice and fairness, solely to convict a man they claim is one of the worst criminals on the planet,” Lichtman said in his statement.
“This is America and that isn’t right.”