14:30 GMT29 November 2020
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    The drug kingpin’s defense says jurors on the case were not unbiased because they had personal motivations to take part in the trial and because they followed media coverage which could have impacted their verdict.

    Lawyers for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the notorious Mexican drug lord being prosecuted in the US, want their client's case to be retried because of potential violations and prejudice by jury members, USA Today reported Tuesday.

    According to a brief filed by Guzman's team, at least six jurors violated the court's instructions to keep away from the news related to the case by actively following media coverage.

    This allegedly led to the jurors being influenced by material that was not present as evidence in court — in particular, coverage that cited Guzman's henchman saying he had drugged and raped underage girls, whom the drug lord called his "vitamins."

    Guzman's lawyers also argue that jurors failed to give honest answers about their personal motivations and biases during pre-trial questioning. In particular, one juror contacted media organization Vice after Guzman was sentenced and gave an interview in which they acknowledged wanting to be chosen as a juror to be a part of a "case of the century." According to the lawyers, jurors' dishonesty can set the stage for a mandatory retrial.

    The attorneys argue that the violators should be questioned about this issue during an evidentiary hearing that would include written or oral questions from the defense team, USA Today reports.

    "If a justice system's measure is how it treats the most reviled and unpopular, then ours may have failed Joaquín Guzmán by denying him the fair trial before an untainted jury to which he's constitutionally entitled," the lawyers' 24-page motion said. "Because sunlight is the best disinfectant, that prospect merits serious consideration, close investigation, and a new trial, as appropriate."

    If the attorneys' demand is satisfied, it will mean a retrial of a case that already involved dozens of witnesses and which reportedly cost millions of dollars in legal and security expenses.

    However, this prospect is not certain, as previous precedents of alleged jury misconduct required the defense to prove not only court instructions violations, but also that the jurors' verdict was influenced by material not presented in court evidence.

    "At the request of Brooklyn US Attorney Richard Donoghue's office, US District Court Judge Brian Cogan set April 29 as the deadline for the government's response to the defense motion," the report says.

    Guzman was extradited from Mexico to the United States for prosecution in early 2017; the drug lord was twice apprehended by Mexican law enforcement, but managed to escape prison on both occasions. Earlier in February, he was found guilty on 10 separate charges regarding moving tons of various drugs, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines, into the US for more than 20 years.

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    Tags:
    drug lord, jury, sentence, retrial, El Chapo, Mexico, US
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