Seven women and five men were officially selected Wednesday to sit as jurors on the upcoming case of notorious Sinaloa cartel head Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — reducing one of them to tears.
“We have one open rebellion,” Brooklyn federal court Judge Brian Cogan declared five minutes after informing the jurors that they’d been selected. The bawling juror “was in tears as she left the courtroom,” he told both parties, adding that the woman previously told him that her coworkers at an unspecified media company figured out she was being questioned to sit on the case.
But, the judge continued, that fact wasn’t going to let her out of service, because he didn’t see any “real hardship there.”
And Guzman’s defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman agreed, saying: “My concern is that if one gets off with a few tears, we’re going to have a trail of tears.”
The selected panel includes four Spanish speakers, three immigrants, and a number of people who have family in law enforcement. All jurors had expressed left-leaning views of drug policy — with a number saying they believed marijuana should be legalized and regulated.
While Cogan said he would officially swear in the panelists next Tuesday before opening statements, he warned jurors Wednesday to stay away from the media — and to keep their new roles top secret.
“Don’t speak to each other about the case,” the judge told the jurors as Guzman looked on stoically form the defense table. “Talk about the weather, the elections — maybe not the elections — but don’t talk with anyone else about this case.”
The jurors, whose identities are anonymous, are now subject to partial sequestration and will be escorted to and from the courthouse by marshals for their own protection from now until the end of the trial, which is expected to last three to four months.
One juror said he had retired from the Department of Corrections in 2007 and was a Giants fan. Another didn’t know what the word “cartel” meant, while another said she had never heard of el Chapo.
One woman, who has been selected as an alternate, said she had two brothers who worked for the Department of Homeland Security, and that one was stationed at the Laredo border in Texas.
Chapo appeared in good spirits Wednesday, having been an active participant and tracking the numbers of potential jurors on his own legal pad along with his attorneys.
Jury selection was lively, with one potential juror getting the ax after he’d asked for the kingpin’s autograph, saying he was a “fan.”
Another man was tossed because he was worried he could be identified by his sandwich order, the “el Chapo,” while another was dismissed for being too easily identifiable as a Michael Jackson impersonator. Another six were tossed from the pool because they feared for their safety.
Yet another man, an ardent Trump supporter, was cut in the last round of strikes Wednesday. He’d been asked previously by Lichtman if he thought Chapo, as a Mexican man, was a “bad hombre.” The man said he didn’t personally “know” the kingpin, so he wasn’t sure.
Chapo faces a 17-count indictment accusing him of running a massive criminal enterprise that imported and sold narcotics, and conspired to murder rivals.
Outside court, defense attorney Eduardo Balarezo said he was pleased they’d picked a jury.
“We are satisfied with the jury that has been selected,” he told reporters. “We trust they will do their duty.”
Openings are expected Nov. 13.