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Supreme Court Refuses to Hear El Chapo’s Complaints About ‘Pretrial Restraints’

El Chapo

El Chapo

The Supreme Court of the United States on Monday rejected the petition of convicted Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera without comment.

The petition for certiorari, filed in April 2022 months after a federal appeals court upheld Guzman’s conviction, asked the high court to answer two questions, the first of which was more technical and relating to extradition. The second question presented had to do with the infamous inmate’s complaints about “pretrial restraints”:

1. Whether under this Court’s precedent in United States v. Rauscher supra, 119 U.S. 407, 430 (1886), individuals have standing to assert violations of an extradition treaty, irrespective of whether the foreign sovereign raises an objection.

2. Whether excessive and punitive pretrial restraints impaired petitioner’s right to counsel, a defense, and compulsory due process.

Well before Guzman was a convicted drug lord, he was famous for escaping maximum security prisons in Mexico. Once he was extradited to the U.S., however, there would be no such escape. Still, the defense insisted that the pretrial confinement Guzman was subjected to was beyond “draconian.” Guzman contended that the “tower of expanding restraints” robbed him of the ability to “mount a defense” and get a fair trial.

The lawyers asserted that there was never a real risk that Guzman would escape from the Manhattan jail where he was detained ahead of trial:

But those tropes prove too much, refuting themselves and ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room. As Chief Magistrate Judge Mann cogently observed, the American justice system and detention center housing the then 60-year-old, 5’4” Guzman – Lower Manhattan’s forbidding MCC, “the most secure . . . Bureau of Prisons . . . facility in the New York City Metropolitan Area” Basciano III, 542 F.3d at 953 n. 1 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted) – was a world away, physically and substantively, from the shady Mexican officials and jails he assertedly bribed, corrupted and contrived his way out of some years earlier.

Thus, absent any claim that Guzman would “collude” with domestic authorities, his government-screened “American lawyers or . . . their staffs” (164 A: 173-74 n. 17) – and given Judge Cogan’s own concession that he behaved in “exemplary” fashion and “displayed considerable grace under pressure” despite “difficult [U.S.] proceedings” and stringent detention terms (165) – it simply was “not reasonable to infer that [Guzman] pose[d] the same level of security and escape risks as when he was held in Mexican prisons.”

Prior to his sentencing, prosecutors called Guzman a “ruthless and bloodthirsty leader” who should be sentenced to the mandatory minimum of life in prison due to his murderous drug trafficking enterprise. According to the U.S. government’s calculation, the criminal enterprise “obtained for distribution, conservatively, over $12,666,191,704.00 worth of illegal drugs.”

Guzman was sentenced to life in prison in July 2019. He remains incarcerated at ADX Florence in Colorado, a “supermax” prison known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

[Image via Ted Psahos/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Getty Images]

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