The accused killer drug boss did not make eye contact with the prospective jurors, even though they were seated no more than 10 feet away from the leader of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel during questioning. Some mentioned they were aware he had escaped from prison in Mexico, and others recalled how he did an interview with actor Sean Penn while he was on the run.
- Jury selection began Monday for the USA trial of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman with potential jurors, including a self-described professional Michael Jackson impersonator, quizzed about how much they knew about Guzman's reputation as a ruthless drug lord in Mexico.
The judge ruled that just five news reporters, a fraction of the swarm of media representatives following the trial, will be allowed in the courtroom during jury selection.
Opening statements in the trial are expected on November 13.
The identities of most scheduled prosecution witnesses also are being kept secret. The defense says the witnesses are the true bad guys whose testimony shouldn't be trusted. In the Philippines, a recent arrest of a cop using cocaine inside a bar during a Halloween party has led the Philippine National Police to believe that the cartel has penetrated the domestic market through the Asian Triad.
Potential jurors, including a Michael Jackson impersonator, arrived to court to see it surrounded by heavily armed guards and bomb sniffing dogs that had staged a perimeter.
A moment of levity came when one potential juror was asked about a deli near his workplace stocking a sandwich called "El Chapo". The eventual panelists will be escorted to and from the federal courthouse by federal marshals.
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After Felix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, Guzman's Sinaloa cartel began its meteoric rise.
El Chapo notoriously escaped from confinement in Mexico twice, which is in part the reason for the extreme security measures surrounding his confinement and extra measures during any of his transportation.
Central to that calculation was Guzman's history of giving directions to his lieutenants from Mexican jails and credentials as a two-time escapee there.
The second time he escaped in July of 2015 he made world headlines when he broke from maximum security Altiplano federal prison via a mile-long underground tunnel.
The logistical problem for his keepers: The case is being prosecuted across the East River in federal court in Brooklyn.
Prosecutors, defence lawyers, and US District Judge Brian Cogan will start by choosing jurors for what is expected to be a four-month trial. He said there would be adjustments, but didn't elaborate. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell.
But no one is saying.