Notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s conviction on charges of running a multibillion-dollar narcotics trafficking operation was upheld Tuesday by a federal appeals court in New York.
In an opinion filed Tuesday morning, a three-judge panel for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a host of arguments Chapo’s lawyers raised in an effort to overturn his conviction.
Potential juror misconduct was among the arguments raised by his attorneys after an unnamed panelist spoke to Vice News and claimed members of the panel had followed media coverage of the case during the trial.
In an October 2021 appeal hearing, El Chapo attorney Marc Fernich urged the panel to overturn the conviction because of the article.
In their opinion on Tuesday, the trio of judges said any possible prejudice the jury was exposed to was “harmless in view of the overwhelming evidence of Guzman’s guilt that was presented at his three-month-long trial.”
The judges added: “None of the allegations in the VICE News article shows that any juror was not impartial, harbored bias against Guzman, or was otherwise unfit to serve.”
El Chapo was sentenced to life in prison in July 2019 after being convicted in Brooklyn federal court on a slew of charges related to the industrial-scale drug trafficking operation he headed for years as leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.
At his sentencing, Chapo railed against the judge’s decision not give him a new trial based on the apparent juror misconduct.
“You didn’t want to question the jury, so what you did was you alleged the actions of the jurors were not important because there was a lot of evidence against me,” Guzman railed. “If that was the case, why did we go to trial? The jury was not necessary then. Why didn’t you just sentence me [immediately]?” he said through a translator.
El Chapo is serving his sentence at a “supermax” federal prison near Florence, Colorado, where he spends 23 hours a day confined to his cell.