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Jurors Will Be Anonymous in El Chapo Trial

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Who could blame a juror for wanting out of the El Chapo trial?

After all, according to reports, the Mexican drug lord has hired hitmen to kill potential witnesses and informants in the past. But not jurors, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has promised in a motion before his upcoming federal trial. That would be uncivilized.

In any case, the judge will have a handful trying to put together a jury -- and then protecting them.

Armed Escorts

Judge Brian M. Cogan issued orders to keep secret the jurors' names, work places, and addresses throughout the trial. He said they should be escorted by armed federal marshals to and from the courthouse.

Guzman has been charged with murder, drug trafficking, and money laundering, but the judge made the orders based on his capacity to harm jurors. The government has claimed El Chapo once had an army of assassins who murdered, kidnapped, and assaulted hundreds of people for him.

After Guzman was extradited to the United States last year, California prisoners posted a video on the internet saying they were his "hitmen who are going to take care of him." His lawyer said it was a "bad joke" at Guzman's expense.

"All he wants is a fair trial," said attorney Eduardo Balarezo.

"A Fair Trial"

Balarezo told the New York Times that an anonymous jury will prejudice jurors against El Chapo and create an "unfair impression that he is a dangerous person."

Anonymous juries are controversial in part because courts are generally open to the public. However, judges may limit access to protect jurors from the media, potential tampering, or social pressure.

In recent years, anonymous juries have been used in organized crime cases to protect their safety. The courts issue the protective orders considering the defendant's ability to harm jurors and any past attempts to interfere with the judicial process.

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