Crime & Justice

Ex-Mexican official Garcia Luna looked serious on 1st day of jury selection

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

New York, Jan 17 (EFE).- Former Mexican Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna appeared on Tuesday in court on the first day of selecting the jury that will decide whether he is guilty of drug trafficking and taking bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel in exchange for facilitating that group’s operations.

Garcia Luna, 54, appeared in Brooklyn federal court wearing a blue suit and gray tie, a courtesy granted him by the judge at the request of the defense team, who asked that he not be required to wear his prison jumpsuit.

The former official, who has been in custody for three years since his capture, appeared on Tuesday with completely gray hair and with a serious demeanor. At a certain point, he looked toward the public in the courtroom and put one hand on his chest, as if he were greeting an acquaintance.

Accompanied by his attorneys, a team headed by well-known defense lawyer Cesar de Castro, Garcia Luna spent several hours during the court session taking notes.

For security reasons, no journalists were admitted to the main courtroom where Garcia Luna was appearing, and reporters had to follow the proceedings on a screen located in an adjacent courtroom.

Only prosecutors and the defense team were allowed to carry electronic devices on the eighth floor of the Brooklyn federal courthouse on Tuesday.

Outside the court, a group of Mexicans had gathered with handwritten signs calling for justice with phrases in Spanish such as “Garcia Luna, tell the truth,” “Mexico demands justice,” “Garcia Luna, don’t cover for anyone” and “Calderon certainly knew,” that being an allusion to former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, during whose administration the defendant served as public safety secretary.

“I want Garcia Luna to tell the truth and (to say) who gave him his orders; that’s why I’m here,” Mexican citizen Rosalia, who was carrying one of the signs, told EFE.

Rosalia, who said she did not trust the courts, insisted that she emigrated to the US during Calderon’s 2006-2012 term “because there was no justice in Mexico.”

The two sides had agreed on a preliminary jury pool of 191 people from among a total of 400 people who were called into court last week and of whom more than half were interviewed on Tuesday.

The 191 are on call starting Tuesday, with 30 being interviewed in the morning and 30 in the afternoon by Judge Peggy Kuo, who is overseeing the jury selection.

It is not obligatory that all 191 people be interviewed by the judge or by the two sides, given that at the point where 12 people and six alternates are agreed to between prosecutors and the defense team, the jury selection process will end and the jury will be considered to be fully constituted.

The jury pool members entered the courtroom one by one and responded to the questions of the judge.

One of the people questioned told the judge that she “felt a little scared” and wanted to know whether, if she were to be chosen, she would be in the same room as the accused, claiming that that could influence her own opinion about the case in rendering a fair decision.

When the judge confirmed that she would have to be in the same courtroom as Garcia Luna, the woman looked visibly nervous, although Garcia Luna smiled.

In addition, another female candidate began crying and said that she felt nervous about the case, although the majority of the people who tried to get themselves excused argued that it would be impossible for them to be absent from their jobs for the two months the trial is anticipated to take.

Kuo, who will turn over her responsibility to Judge Brian Cogan when the jury pool selection is complete, said that on Wednesday another 60 candidates will be interviewed.

The trial against Garcia Luna – considered to be one of the most important in recent years due to the political profile of the accused given that he served as Mexico’s top security official from 2006-2012 – should last about two months, Kuo said on Tuesday.

Once the jury pool is formed, the people serving on it will remain anonymous and will remain isolated from the public and be transported to court by deputy sheriffs, all for security reasons.

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