Trial of 'El Chapo' Was an 'Amazing Open Book'

Now Joaquin Guzman's fate is in the hands of the jury
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2019 1:24 PM CST
The 'El Chapo' Trial Was Crazy. Now It's Up to the Jury
In this Jan. 8, 2016, file photo, drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers in Mexico City following his recapture six months after escaping from a maximum-security prison.   (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)

Closing arguments wound down Thursday in the trial of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leaving in their wake in a Brooklyn courthouse tales "that at times echoed a Shakespearean drama and at others detailed a Sinaloa cartel bloodbath," per NBC News. The 61-year-old drug kingpin's fate is now set to transfer Monday into the hands of a five-man, seven-woman jury, who will deliberate on charges that include money laundering, drug trafficking, and conspiracy to murder his rivals. With witness names like "The Godfather," "Lollipop," and "The Fat One," the trial likely wasn't a boring one for spectators. More on the El Chapo drama:

  • Eyebrow-raising details: NBC offers a look at some of the more unusual testimony in the case, including stories of a naked Guzman trying to flee from cops by disappearing into a tunnel under his bathtub, as well as a proud text message to his wife that he wanted to give one of their toddler daughters an AK-47 "so she can hang with me." One especially bizarre incident: Guzman and his wife showing up one day at the courthouse in matching burgundy velvet blazers, apparently to show themselves as a united front after his mistress had testified.
  • Spotlight on Sinaloa: El Chapo's trial offers what the Washington Post calls an "unprecedented glimpse" into the bowels of Guzman's drug cartel, complete with stories of cocaine shoved in cans of peppers, firearms adorned with diamonds, and a drug depository with a stellar view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Taking notes for Netflix: Listening in on some of those fascinating details was Eric Newman, a producer for the streaming network's Narcos: Mexico, and he called what he saw and heard "an amazing open book for us," per the New York Times. Alejandro Edda, the actor who plays Guzman in the series, even showed up Monday and "instantly became part of the absurdity. After El Chapo's lawyers told their client that the actor who played him on the show was in the gallery, the kingpin turned around from his spot on the defense table, smiled, and waved at Mr. Edda."

  • Interesting legal strategy: Guzman took a little ribbing about his height—"El Chapo" means "The Shorty"—during Thursday's hearing, and the barbs came from his own attorney, who tried to downplay his client's rep as a drug kingpin. "That 60-year-old man who's 'this big' is whacking people with a tree branch for three hours?" lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman scoffed, per the New York Post.
  • "Scum, utter lunatics, and animals": Lichtman kept it turned up while describing the parade of cooperating witnesses against Guzman, claiming his client was simply the "fall guy" in the face of a lot of liars. "If you don't believe all cooperators, you can't convict Mr. Guzman," he said, seemingly "intent on entertaining the jurors," per the Los Angeles Times.
  • No apologies: From El Chapo's beauty queen wife, that is. Per the New York Daily News, a defiant Emma Coronel Aispuro spoke up after Thursday's proceedings, saying, "I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am not perfect, but I consider myself a good human being who has never hurt anyone intentionally." She also noted everything she'd heard at the trial "does not change in any way the way I think about him."
  • Who's the boss? Don Winslow writes about the "dirty secret" underlying Guzman's downfall for Vanity Fair, noting that, in the end, it doesn't really matter what happens as a result of this trial. Why? "The critical thing to understand is that Guzman wasn't—and never would be—the sole 'boss' of the Sinaloa cartel," Winslow writes. Instead, think of it like a tiered wedding cake, with Guzman just one of the fondant flowers on the top tier.
(Read more Joaquin Guzman stories.)

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