Crime & Justice

US appeals court upholds life in prison for drug kingpin Chapo Guzman

New York, Jan 25 (EFE).- A US appeals court on Tuesday upheld the sentence of life behind bars handed down against Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, rejecting the appeal filed by his attorneys.

The Second District Court of Appeals, in New York, ruled that the trial in which Guzman was found guilty and sentenced was properly conducted, throwing out the arguments of the defense team, which – among other things – said that the members of the original jury did not abide by the rules imposed for the case by following it in the media and protested regarding their client’s imprisonment conditions.

Guzman, now 64, was found guilty in February 2019 of 10 counts of drug trafficking after a trial lasting almost four months and, later, was sentenced to life in prison.

The trial against the former head of the Sinaloa Cartel became the biggest drug trafficking trial in US history and ended with the Mexican drug lord sent to a maximum security prison in Colorado.

Guzman’s attorneys had appealed the sentence basing their case on 10 points, none of which convinced the appeals court that the original trial should be invalidated.

The appeal focused on alleged irregularities committed by members of the original jury, after one of them admitted to Vice News that at least five jury members had followed the case in the media, despite having been prohibited from doing so during the course of the trial.

The appeals court ruled that the allegations that appeared in Vice News did not call into question the impartiality of the jury members and said that there was no justification for repeating the trial.

Guzman’s attorneys claimed that the Vice News article shows that the jury lied to the court, which they said invalidated the trial, but the appeals court judges disagreed, saying that none of the allegations in the Vice News article proved that any jury member was not impartial, had any prejudice against Guzman or should not have served on the jury.

The three-judge panel also rejected other arguments by Guzman’s legal team to try and invalidate the life sentence, including the claim that the prison conditions in which he had been held awaiting trial had made it impossible for him to prepare adequately and receive a fair trial.

According to the court’s decision, although those conditions were admittedly tough – with Guzman being kept in solitary confinement without access to natural light for two-and-a-half years – they were not a basis for nullifying the sentence.

EFE mvs/hc/eat/bp

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