Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Notorious Mexican Drug Lord, Found Guilty On All Counts

23 hours ago
Originally published on February 12, 2019 5:41 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

After two prison breaks, years on the run and an extradition, the road to justice for one of Mexico's most notorious drug lords ended today in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn. Joaquin El Chapo Guzman was found guilty on all 10 counts, charges relating to drug trafficking, money laundering, murder conspiracy. He now faces life in prison. For more, I am joined by Keegan Hamilton. He's an editor for VICE News. He's been watching the trial, and he was in the court today. Hey there, Keegan.

KEEGAN HAMILTON: Hey, how are you doing?

KELLY: I'm all right. Thank you. What was the reaction there in the courtroom when this verdict was read out?

HAMILTON: You know, Chapo himself looked almost stunned. He didn't have much of an expression on his face. But then you could see it sink in. And just a couple moments after when he was being escorted out of the courtroom, he sort of looked to his wife in the gallery and was nodding at her. She was fighting back tears and sort of flashed him a thumbs up as he was escorted out. The atmosphere from everyone else was one of sort of relief that this is over after three long months of covering this trial. And it was just, frankly, electric. I mean, this was the culmination of a lot of hard work for, you know, the folks on the government side and the defense and everyone who's been sort of involved in this at every level, from the press to the courtroom security to you name it. It has really affected the folks in Brooklyn pretty intensely day in, day out.

KELLY: You mention the defense, and I wanted to ask about that because their case lasted only half an hour, one witness called. Does today's verdict suggest that was maybe not the wisest strategy?

HAMILTON: You know, the defense has been - faced a lot of criticism for only calling that one witness who testified for 30 minutes. And it was an FBI agent at that who was obviously not too keen to say anything that might help El Chapo win an acquittal. But the defense can only play the hand they're dealt, and the evidence in this case was overwhelming. I mean, the government had wiretapped phone calls where El Chapo could be heard discussing drug business. They had thousands of intercepted text messages where it was clear, you know, he was the boss of the cartel who was calling the shots. They had his handwritten letters for - from prison that had orders to his underlings, so there's not...

KELLY: Right. They had stuff going back to the '80s that they were introducing. Is that right?

HAMILTON: There's not - that's absolutely right. I think all the way back to '86, '87. So there's not much the defense can really do to that. The speculation was that El Chapo himself might testify and sort of try to spin his story as the rags-to-riches boy who grew up in the mountains and did what he had to do to provide for his family. But they were also - risked exposing themselves to cross-examination that might have been more damaging than whatever they were going to get from their own client. So it's hard to fault the defense for putting that one witness out there frankly because I don't know who else they would have called to testify on Chapo's behalf.

KELLY: I also have to ask you about the jurors, who I have been following with fascination as they've spent three months of their lives on this trial. Their identities have been kept secret. This is because of fear of risk of retaliation.

HAMILTON: Yeah. There are 12 jurors and six alternates, and they've been anonymous this whole time. Their faces - you can see them in the courtroom. They walk in and out. And they get escorted to and from the courthouse by U.S. marshals. But nobody knows their names, exactly like you said, because of, you know, the history of intimidation and threats and violence against anyone who might put El Chapo behind bars. So the judge today said that if any of those jurors wished to, they could, you know, shed their anonymity and speak to the media. But he advised them against doing that and basically saying once they open that door, there's no closing it. So we'll see in the coming days if any of them decide to speak out and tell us what was going through their heads in the trial and what happened in the jury room during their six days of deliberations.

KELLY: That's Keegan Hamilton, U.S. editor for VICE News and host of the podcast "El Chapo: Kingpin On Trial." Keegan, thanks very much.

HAMILTON: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.