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U.S. Gov’t to El Chapo: It Doesn’t Matter if Jurors Disobeyed Judge’s Orders, You’re Still Guilty


Federal prosecutors have come up with their best argument for why convicted Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman should not get a new trial. El Chapo’s defense lawyers moved quickly for a new trial after explosive allegations were made in a VICE News article that jurors routinely consulted inadmissible evidence and broke court rules like talking to each another about the case in and outside the courtroom.

Right from the start, it was clear that the government had zero respect for VICE News’ work product.

“The defendant’s motion rests entirely upon an anonymously sourced, uncorroborated article published by VICE News eight days after the jury verdict convicting him on all counts following a 12-week trial,” the government writes. “In support of his motion, the defendant cites to unsworn hearsay and double-hearsay allegations in the VICE News Article made by an alleged juror or alternate juror.”

Prosecutors noted, at length, the Court’s repeated admonitions and instructions to jurors not to consult the media nor social media on the El Chapo case (“Do not talk to anybody about this case. Do not post anything on social media. No Googling, no Facebooking, no Binging, no Twittering, no nothing at all about this, please. Stay away from any media coverage of the case”; “[S]tay away from media coverage, do not communicate with anyone about this case, not by social media, verbally, snail mail or anything else”; “[S]tay away from media coverage, do not communicate with anyone about this case, not by social media, verbally, snail mail or anything else,” etc.).

“In total, the Court delivered the instruction to the jury at least 45 times during trial,” prosecutors said. Even though they had already rubbished the VICE News article as “double-hearsay,” prosecutors acknowledged that it is possible there was some truth to it.

If even that was the case, they said, it doesn’t matter, because El Chapo doesn’t deserve a new trial.

“In any event, even assuming the truth of the allegations in the VICE News Article, the defendant is not entitled to a new trial,” they said.

Prosecutors argued that the “nature of the alleged media exposure (which did not relate to the charged crimes), the Court’s repeated instructions as to the jury’s proper considerations, the jury’s diligence at trial, and the overwhelming evidence against the defendant, the alleged media exposure did not prejudice the defendant.”

They also argued that there is “no indication that any juror lied to the Court to conceal any purported bias against the defendant, such that the alleged falsehood prejudiced the defendant.”

“Thus, even if the allegations in the VICE News Article are true, the Court still should deny the defendant’s motion for a new trial without an evidentiary hearing,” the government continued. “As the VICE News Article raises no concern that the defendant is innocent and that the jury wrongfully convicted him, a new trial is not justified under Rule 33.”

They then bullet-pointed evidence the jury heard at trial regarding drug trafficking and “shocking” violence.

Evidence of Drug Trafficking

Evidence of Violence

“In addition to evidence of the defendant’s drug trafficking, the trial evidence showed that the defendant ruled over even the most loyal and productive members of his drug trafficking organization with an iron fist, including through the use of fear, intimidation and extraordinary violence,” prosecutors said. “In part because the defendant’s violence was a key method by which he exercised control over the Sinaloa Cartel and engendered loyalty among his workers and associates, evidence of the defendant’s violence was highly relevant at trial and the shocking scope of the defendant’s unapologetic depravity was on full display before the jury.”

“These were far from the only instances of violence with respect to which the jury heard evidence during trial,” prosecutors added.

Throughout the trial, the defense argued that El Chapo was a fall guy for kingpin Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. The jury in question found differently. Prosecutors alleged that Guzman violently trafficked in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine and secured a conviction, meaning “one of the world’s most notorious criminals” would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Government responds to El Chapo’s lawyers by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Alfredo EstrellaA/AFP/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.