NEW YORK — Jury selection has begun for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the captured leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, according to USA Today.
Guzman, 61, was apprehended and extradited to the United States in 2017 after previously escaping Mexican prisons twice, once through a tunnel leading to a shower in his prison cell and the other in a laundry cart.
The Sinaloa drug cartel is the largest drug trafficking ring in the world and is estimated to have provided Europe and the United States with at least 80 percent of its cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine in 2013.
A Brooklyn federal court was blanketed with tight security as jury selection proceedings began on Monday. Guzman faces a life sentence for running the criminal enterprise and is charged with 17 counts of drug trafficking, conspiracy to murder, and money laundering. Prosecutors claim that Guzman imported at least 200 tons of drugs into the United States between 1989 and 2014.
Marijuana, Michael Jackson, El Chapo, and Bagels
Among the prospects for the jury was a man who admitted to thinking about a bagel when he heard the name "El Chapo." The man said that a deli nearby his place of employment had a delicious bagel with cream cheese and lox named after Guzman.
A Michael Jackson impersonator was also a potential juror, prompting Guzman's lawyer Eduardo Balarezo to joke around and ask the impersonator to do the moonwalk. The Michael Jackson impersonator was dismissed by prosecutors as a potential juror because his job would make him too easy to identify.
Potential jurors were asked about their feelings regarding law enforcement, marijuana, and if they knew of Guzman. One man admitted to being afraid of Guzman. Another woman worried that Guzman's sons and the Sinaloa cartel would target people on the jury.
"What scares me is I read that his family will come after jurors and their families," she said. Guzman is accused of having more than 30 people murdered to protect his business, and a judge did rule in February that jurors would remain anonymous.
Witnesses scheduled to testify are also having their identities withheld by prosecutors to keep them safe. The defense says that the claims against Guzman are false and based on the statements of drug dealers and murderers. U.S. Marshalls will escort the jurors to the courthouse daily for the duration of the trial.
Opening statements for Guzman's trial are scheduled for Nov. 13.