'El Chapo' U.S. drug trial jury ends second day without verdict

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jurors in the U.S. trial of accused Mexican drug cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman ended their second day of deliberations on Tuesday without reaching a verdict.

The 12 jurors in federal court in Brooklyn began their deliberations shortly after 9 a.m. (1300 GMT), and were sent home at 4:15 p.m. They are expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

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.

On Tuesday afternoon, the jurors asked to hear a phone call in which a man, who prosecutors say is Guzman, discusses selling methamphetamine in the United States, as well as part of one witness’s testimony about importing ephedrine into Mexico to manufacture methamphetamine. The call was played for them, and court stenographers read them a transcript of the testimony.

The jurors had asked on Monday whether ephedrine is considered methamphetamine, and were instructed by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan to refer to the evidence in the case.

Jurors also asked for the entire testimony of Colombian drug trafficking brothers Jorge and Alex Cifuentes, both of whom testified at length against Guzman. Because their testimony spanned several days, Cogan said he would give them written transcripts, which are expected to be ready on Wednesday.

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.

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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.

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 Brendan Pierson; Editing by Alistair Bell and Grant McCool