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‘El Chapo’ wants new trial, claiming jury misconduct, as family seeks U.S. visas

‘El Chapo’ wants new trial, claiming jury misconduct, as family seeks U.S. visas
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, head of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, is escorted to a helicopter in Mexico City on Feb. 22, 2014, following his capture in Mazatlan. (Eduardo Verdugo / Associated Press)

The defense team for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman said Friday it would seek a new trial for the notorious drug lord after allegations of misconduct on the part of several jurors who allegedly followed media accounts of the case against the instructions of a federal judge.

Defense attorney Eduardo Balarezo said in a court filing he intended to ask U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan to conduct an evidentiary hearing “to determine the extent of the misconduct.”

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The U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment.

Guzman was convicted last week of murder conspiracy and drug-trafficking charges. He faces life in prison at his June sentencing.

Meanwhile, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday that he has instructed his government to assist Guzman’s family in seeking humanitarian visas to visit the convicted drug trafficker in the United States.

During a visit last week to Guzman's hometown of Badiraguato in Sinaloa state, a lawyer passed Lopez Obrador a letter from Guzman's mother.

"Like any mother asking me for support for her son," Lopez Obrador said.

Later in the afternoon, the president published via Twitter Consuelo Loera's letter in which she asks for his help in obtaining humanitarian visas for herself and two of her daughters.

Lopez Obrador was in Sinaloa last week to announce a highway construction project.

In the letter dated Feb. 14, Loera described herself as "suffering and desperate" and wrote that she had not seen her son in more than five years. She called his extradition illegal and asked that Guzman be brought back to Mexico.

Lopez Obrador said legal questions would have to be dealt with by Mexico's interior ministry, attorney general's office and judiciary.

U.S. support for such a request would be extremely unlikely considering Guzman has escaped from two prisons.

But on the humanitarian front, Lopez Obrador said: "I gave instructions that they facilitate [soliciting the visas] and that the sisters be able to go to the United States and to help them according to the laws, regulations that country has, so that they can visit him or have communication."

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, such permission, known as humanitarian parole, is reserved for people with a compelling emergency, but anyone can apply. Those who could be considered eligible should have an "emergent humanitarian reason or significant public benefit" to temporarily entering the U.S.

Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Guzman was convicted Feb. 12 in federal court in New York on multiple drug trafficking and conspiracy charges and likely faces a life sentence. On Friday, his defense team said it wanted a new trial based on reports of jury misconduct.

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El Chapo’s two sons were indicted on drug conspiracy charges, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Joaquin Guzman Lopez, 34, and Ovidio Guzman Lopez, 28, are charged in a single-count indictment that was unsealed last week in Washington. Prosecutors allege the two brothers conspired to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana into the U.S. from Mexico and elsewhere in the world from 2008 to 2018. They are both believed to be living in Mexico and remain fugitives.

The filing for a new trial for El Chapo came two days after Vice News reported that at least five jurors followed media reports and Twitter feeds during the three-month trial and were aware of potentially prejudicial material that had been excluded from the proceedings.

Cogan regularly warned jurors to avoid reading about the case, one of the most highly publicized trials in recent memory.

Guzman's attorneys said they want Cogan to quiz the jurors about their behavior during the trial. They asked for an additional month to prepare their motion for new trial, which is due next week.

One juror anonymously told Vice News that five jurors and two alternates heard about child rape allegations made against Guzman that were covered by the news media but not admitted into evidence at the trial. The juror also alleged that another member of the panel used a smartwatch to look up a news story at one point during the trial.

"It's clear we have to get them back into court and get some answers about some massive misconduct," Guzman attorney Jeffrey Lichtman told the Associated Press this week. "We hope it will lead to Joaquin Guzman getting the fair trial that he deserves."

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