Lawyers for Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, alias "El Chapo" - who is serving a life sentence for drug trafficking in the maximum-security prison of Florence ADMAX, in the U.S. state of Colorado - expect to present, this Monday, arguments before an appeals court to overturn the life sentence that a judge imposed on the Sinaloa drug lord in July 2019, for being guilty of criminal association to traffic drugs.
According to the appeal - quoted by the U.S. agency The Associated Press (AP), "the prosecution of Chapo Guzmán was altered by both governmental and judicial excesses and overreach, unnecessary resources if he were truly a capo de capos as his adversaries insisted."
On February 11, 2020, Jeffrey Harris Lichtman, one of the Sinaloa drug lord's lawyers, stated that "El Chapo" would appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit his case number 19-2239, filed on July 22, 2019, for alleged misconduct of the jury that was in the trial against him in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The U.S. litigant indicated then, that the former Sinaloa Cartel leader himself was "helping, working on paperwork from his cell" at the Florence ADMAX maximum-security prison in Colorado.
On July 22, 2019, Marc Fernich, one of the Sinaloa drug lord's defense attorneys - a specialist in "sophisticated appeals" - presented before the US Court of Appeals a document requesting the review of the life sentence plus 30 years in prison and the payment of 12,166 million 191,704 dollars, which on Wednesday, July 17, 2019, was handed down to Guzmán Loera by federal judge Brian M. Cogan, in the Eastern District Court of New York.
"El Chapo" was transferred to the maximum-security prison Florence ADMAX, in Colorado, even though his defense in the US claimed they needed him in New York so that the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel could "help them" prepare the appeal. However, the motion was filed a day after the sentencing, when the Sinaloa drug lord had already been released from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where he had been imprisoned since his extradition to the US on January 19, 2017.
Reading "El Chapo's" sentence on July 17, 2019, Judge Brian M. Cogan stated that there were "mountains of evidence" that convicted the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and made clear that during the trial "I saw the most terrible criminal characteristics of my entire life as a judge." After Andrea Goldman set the prosecution's position, "El Chapo" spoke for 13 minutes and complained about the inhumane treatment received in 30 months since his extradition, and told the federal judge that justice had not been served.
"Given that the U.S. government will send me to a prison where I will never hear my name again, I take this opportunity to say that there was no justice here," the Sinaloa drug lord said. "It makes it clear that the United States is no better than any corrupt country than the ones you do not respect," indicated "El Chapo," who then told the federal judge, "You [Brian M. Cogan] claim that the jury's action was not important because there was so much evidence against me."
The Sinaloa drug lord referred to the interview that journalist Keegan Hamilton, of VICE News, conducted with a member of the jury, who denounced that his colleagues had followed details of the trial through social networks, although the federal judge had forbidden it. "In response, you decided to do nothing. You didn't want to question even one juror to determine if I received justice [...] You didn't want to bring back the jury [...] Why did we go to trial? Why don't you convict me from day one?" questioned Guzmán Loera to Brian M. Cogan.
"The judge denied me a fair trial when the whole world was watching," said the Sinaloa drug lord, who also claimed to have been the victim of "cruel and inhumane" treatment. Guzmán Loera said that his conditions of confinement in the MMC amounted to "psychological, emotional and mental torture." "It has been torture, the most inhumane situation I have lived in my entire life [...] It has been physical, emotional and mental torture," said "El Chapo," who also said he was forced to drink unhygienic water and received little light or air in the New York prison.
For his part, attorney Lichtman assured that the judicial process was unfair and was confident of filing an appeal. "This case was an inquisition, a spectacle [...] It didn't matter what they talked about in the jury [...] All we asked for was a fair trial. I'm not here to say that Joaquín Guzmán was a saint," the Sinaloa drug lord's defender said.
"But he [the Sinaloa drug lord] deserves a fair trial [...] We are relying on the appeal. There are important issues, extradition issues," Lichtman said at a press conference outside the New York courthouse, where he added that at least five jurors allegedly violated the law during Guzmán Loera's trial. Lichtman said, in addition, many of the witnesses reached plea deals with authorities.
"Those murderers that you heard testify are now already on the street, others have been on the street for years and others will soon be out," the litigator added. "All he wanted, and he told me from day one: 'I just want a fair trial. He tells me I can get justice here, I just want a fair trial.' And at the end of the day, we like to pretend that it was about justice, but it wasn't justice," noted, "El Chapo's" lawyer. "You can't have a situation where jurors run around lying, lying to a judge, lying to a judge about what they were doing and having information about allegations that the government had deliberately omitted," the U.S. litigator said.
"It's fiction. It's part of the sham trial that we're here for. They've been looking at his assets for how long, decades? Before they get to 12.7 billion, how about they get to the first dollar? When they get to the first dollar they wake me up. Right now, there's zero," Lichtman abounded. "So, I don't know if we're going to see anything with that, it's fiction. You know if there are no assets, I don't know if he can write a note to commit to paying. If there are no assets, there's nothing to pay. The [U.S.] government knows that," said the Sinaloa drug lord's lawyer.
Several members of the jury, which on February 12, 2019, unanimously convicted Chapo - of 10 drug-related crimes in the Eastern District Court of New York - read about the case through the media and social networks, breaking at least two rules imposed by the magistrate in charge of the case.
Judge Cogan ordered the 12 jurors not to review the case in the media or on social media and not to talk to each other about it so that the verdict could be decided only on the evidence presented by the New York prosecution. However, in an interview with the U.S. media VICE, one of the jurors stated under anonymity, that he, as well as others of his colleagues, broke such rules since, after three weeks of trial, it was very difficult not to talk about the case among them.
The juror pointed out to journalist Keegan Hamilton that he and some of his colleagues constantly went to the social networks of journalists who regularly covered the trial against the Sinaloa drug lord, which ended with a guilty verdict and a life sentence, which was handed down on June 25, 2019. "Fair trial? #Chapolibre," tweeted one of the defense attorneys, Eduardo Balarezo, attaching a link to the jury's interview with VICE, who also claimed that the jurors lied to the judge in the case about their exposure to press coverage of the trial on several occasions.
The most notorious was when the weekend before deliberations began, 75 unsealed pages of court documents were published claiming that Guzmán Loera had paid for sex with girls -- some as young as 13 years old -- whom the drug lord allegedly drugged and raped because "they gave him life. According to this juror, he learned through the social network Twitter that Judge Cogan might meet with them, so he advised the other jurors that, if they had seen what happened, to keep a calm expression and deny it.
However, the jury assured that such information did not influence their final decision, as many of them "were saddened" by the idea that Guzmán Loera would spend the rest of his life behind bars, while others were "horrified" that the prosecution would use drug traffickers in the case against the Sinaloa drug lord.
"A lot of people had a hard time thinking that he was in solitary confinement, because, well, you know, we're all human beings, people make mistakes," this juror told VICE, who further stated that they broke another of the judge's rules by commenting on the case after the days were over, as they went home or during breaks in the sessions.
The deliberations lasted six days, longer than expected in a process that seemed clear, although according to this juror, it was all due to a "stubborn" member of the 12 members. She would say yes, then go home and the next day she would say, 'You know, I thought about it and I've changed my mind,'" forcing a return to deliberations on specific cases.
The interviewee recalled that on February 12, 2019, after issuing the verdict that found Guzmán Loera guilty of the 10 charges against him, "in a way we were all pretty sad, struggling to keep from getting teary-eyed although at least four people cried in the end."
On the other hand, according to the interviewee, there was not much that Chapo's defense could do with all the evidence shown against the Sinaloa drug lord during the 12-week trial, which was called the "Trial of the Century", the most expensive and longest in U.S. history.
For "El Chapo" to be sentenced to life imprisonment, the 18 members of the jury - 12 members and 6 alternates - had to agree unanimously, since if one of them did not agree with the verdict of the rest of the panel on any of the 10 charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, and weapons, the trial would be declared a mistrial, a scenario that the Sinaloa drug lord's defense had bet on from the beginning, made up, among others, by attorneys Jeffrey Lichtman, Eduardo Balarezo and William Púrpura.