By Agence France-Presse
Lawyers for the convicted Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman requested a new trial Tuesday, saying some jurors followed media coverage of the first one, violating the judge’s orders.
The former Sinaloa cartel chief was found guilty on February 12 of smuggling tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States. He is scheduled to be sentenced in June and faces the prospect of life in prison.
After the conviction, Vice News published an interview with a member of the jury who alleged that at least five jurors defied orders not to follow media coverage of the three-month trial, look it up online, or communicate with anyone about the case.
“We believe that juror misconduct deprived Joaquin of a fair trial in a case in which the defense was extremely restricted to begin with. We look forward to vindicating his rights in a new trial before a jury that will abide by its oath,” Guzman attorney Eduardo Balarezo said.
The defense team filed a motion with federal court in Brooklyn where the trial was held to seek a special hearing on the Vice News report.
US judges routinely instruct jurors to refrain from watching media coverage of their cases, so verdicts will be based solely on information presented during the trial.
“Reports of jury misconduct, of course, are nothing new in high-profile cases,” the motion for a new trial reads.
“One factor that sets these apart is a juror’s frank confession that panel members actively sought out and actively discussed the most sensational extrinsic information — including vile allegations that the defendant raped young girls,” the motion added.
These allegations came from a former Guzman associate who testified as a government witness. They featured in documents made public right before the jury started deliberating.
The witness did not make these allegations while testifying. But they ended up being published in news reports.