A federal appeals court panel is weighing whether to grant Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán a new trial following a 2019 report alleging juror misconduct during the notorious drug kingpin’s drug-trafficking trial.
El Chapo attorney Marc Fernich argued his case Monday afternoon in front of a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan.
Fernich focused on a Vice News story, which quoted an anonymous juror who claimed that members of the panel followed news reports about the closely-watched case during the trial, lied about it to the judge and were made aware of evidence not introduced — including that Chapo allegedly drugged and raped girls who were as young as 13 years old.
Fernich argued if the article is to be presumed true, the jury misconduct warrants a new trial for the convicted drug lord. Or, at the very least, a hearing on whether the article should be taken as fact should be held, he argued.
At least one judge on the panel seemed receptive.
“Sounds like not a bad argument,” Judge Gerard Lynch said at Monday’s hearing.
Hiral Mehta, an attorney representing the Justice Department, claimed the argument for a hearing or a new trial should be shot down because the Vice article is “hearsay” and some of the allegations in it are refuted by the trial record.
As an example, Mehta said all of the jurors who saw news reports about Chapo abusing young girls told the trial judge they ignored the information.
“This anonymous juror’s allegation is false,” Mehta said.
The three-judge panel will issue a ruling in a written memo at a later date.
Chapo was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years following his conviction on a slew of drug-trafficking charges in February 2019.
The diminutive drug boss, who has twice slipped out of prison in Mexico, is serving his time at a supermax prison in Colorado.