February 4, 2019 / 11:08 AM / 4 months ago

'El Chapo' jury ends first day of deliberations without verdict

(Reuters) - Jurors in the U.S. trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, accused of running one of the world’s most infamous drug cartels, ended their first day of deliberations in Brooklyn federal court on Monday without reaching a verdict.

The 12 jurors began deliberating at about 1 p.m. (1800 GMT)after receiving instructions from U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan. The judge sent them home at about 4.20 p.m.

Guzman, 61, is accused of leading Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, which became one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world. He twice escaped from prison in Mexico, and will face the possibility of life in a U.S. prison if convicted.

The 11-week trial, which featured testimony from more than 50 witnesses, offered the public an unprecedented look into the inner workings of the cartel, named for the state in northwest Mexico where Guzman was born in a poor mountain village.

Prosecutors said he trafficked tons of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into the United States over more than two decades, consolidating his power in Mexico through murders and wars with rival cartels.

The defense argued that Guzman was set up as a “fall guy” by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a drug kingpin from Sinaloa who remains at large.

The jury sent the judge two notes with legal questions during the afternoon.

In the first, they asked whether a “drug war” could be considered “part of a drug trafficking crime with specific reference to the weapons charge.” Jurors heard extensive testimony about deadly wars between Guzman and rival drug traffickers during the trial.

One of the 10 criminal counts Guzman faces is that he used weapons in furtherance of his drug crimes. Cogan told the jury they could not consider the weapons charge until they had found Guzman guilty of one of four drug-related counts. He said they were free to consider evidence of drug wars while weighing those counts.

In the second note, the jury asked whether “ephedrine is considered methamphetamine.”

Witnesses in the case testified that ephedrine is one of the ingredients used to make methamphetamine. Cogan told the jurors that they would have to refer to the evidence in the case.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: 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 January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

The jury is comprised of seven women and five men. Their names have not been disclosed for security reasons.

At least three jurors are immigrants, three are Spanish speakers and several have ties to law enforcement.

Almost all of them had heard of Guzman before the trial began, but said they could be impartial. The only exception was a woman from Ethiopia who said she had “no clue” who he was.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Brendan Pierson; Editing by Alistair Bell and Rosalba O'Brien

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