Drug kingpin El Chapo appealing life sentence over ‘jury misconduct’ claims

One of the world's most infamous cocaine kingpins is appealing his prison sentence over claims being in prison is like "a modern dungeon".

Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman appealed his life sentence on Monday with his lawyer arguing that "breath-taking jury misconduct" and "stifling defence restrictions" invalidated his previous trial.

The infamous Mexican drug lord was found guilty on ten charges, including drug trafficking and money laundering, back in February 2019.

From 1988 until his capture the 64-year-old ran the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful trafficking organisation in the world which remained relatively unrivalled until recently.

Marc Fernich, El Chapo's attorney, has now appealed to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals for a retrial on two separate grounds.

The first relates to accusations of jury misconduct which were brought to light when VICE interviewed an anonymous juror in the first trial.

The supposed juror admitted to both committing and witnessing acts that could have prejudiced the trial.

They said: "You know how we were told we can't look at the media during the trial? Well, we did. Jurors did.

"We would constantly go to your media, your Twitter… I personally and some other jurors that I knew."

At Monday's hearing Fernich even read a section of the VICE article aloud and dubbed the contents "breath-taking jury misconduct".

He added: "If corners are cut to incapacitate a perceived public enemy like my client, some government lawyer 50 or 100 years from now will hold up this case as precedent to take similar shortcuts for the next El Chapo.

"If there is no procedural justice for the reputed worst among us, there can be none for any of us – not least those falsely charged."

In response, Justice Department attorneys called the article "uncorroborated… hearsay and double hearsay", although Circuit Judge Gerard E Lynch admitted that it was "not a bad argument".

Fernich's second argument was that, because El Chapo had been kept in solitary confinement before going before a judge, his "cognitive, emotional and mental" faculties were diminished and the trial was unfair.

He described solitary confinement as a "modern dungeon", adding that "the combination of unprecedented restrictions made it impossible to meaningfully prepare a defence".

This was an issue for the jury at the time too according to VICE's source, who admitted that they "wouldn't feel comfortable finding him guilty" if they knew he would spend the rest of his life in solitary.

However, the Justice Department argued that the strict conditions were necessary considering El Chapo's history.

The drug lord has twice previously escaped from Mexican prisons, once in 2001 when he was smuggled to freedom in a laundry basket and again in 2015 when his cartel underlings constructed a 1.5km (0.9mi) tunnel for him to sneak out of.

The three-judge panel will rule on Fernich's arguments at a later date.

Meanwhile, El Chapo remains locked up in solitary confinement at ADX Florence, a 'supermax' prison in Colorado.

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