An appeals court on Tuesday upheld the life sentence imposed on Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, rejecting an appeal filed by his lawyers.
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the fairness of the proceedings against El Chapo and dismissed the defense’s arguments, which included claims that jurors had broken the rules by following the case in the media and protesting the conditions of incarceration.
Guzmán was convicted in February 2019 of ten drug trafficking offenses after a trial that lasted nearly four months and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
The trial against the former head of the Sinaloa Cartel became the largest drug trafficking trial in U.S. history and ended with the Mexican drug lord in a maximum-security prison in the state of Colorado.
His lawyers had appealed the sentence on the basis of ten arguments, which did not convince the appeal court.
Their central case was based on alleged irregularities committed by jurors, after one of them admitted to Vice News that at least five of the jurors had followed the case through the media, even though they were banned from doing so during the course of the trial.
In its decision today, the appeal court found that the allegations in Vice did not call into question the impartiality of the jurors and argued that there was no justification for a retrial.
“Guzman argues that the article demonstrates that the jury lied to the court, which, he argues, amounts to structural error. We disagree. None of the allegations in the Vice News article show that any juror was unbiased, biased against Guzman or unfit to serve,” the more than 40-page text states.
The judges also rejected Guzman’s other arguments to try to overturn the conviction, including the allegedly poor conditions in which he was detained while awaiting trial, which lawyers said made it impossible for him to adequately prepare for and receive a fair trial.
According to the decision, while those conditions were indeed harsh (Guzman was held in solitary confinement without access to natural light for two and a half years), they are not a basis for overturning the conviction.