A federal appeals court upheld the conviction of Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, rejecting claims of juror misconduct and that his pretrial treatment in jail hampered his defense. The ruling, by a three-judge panel on the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, means Guzmán will continue serving a life sentence, the Wall Street Journal reports. A federal jury in Brooklyn convicted him in 2019 of 10 criminal counts in connection with leading the Sinaloa drug cartel. The Second Circuit found that the presiding judge “conducted the three-month trial with diligence and fairness, after issuing a series of meticulously crafted pretrial rulings.”
Guzmán’s team challenged his conviction, citing allegations in a story that Vice Media Group published a few days after the conviction. Vice anonymously quoted a juror saying that several jurors disobeyed a judge’s instructions to avoid news reports about the case during the trial. The Second Circuit said that none of the allegations in the Vice story showed that any juror harbored a bias involving Guzmán. The overwhelming evidence against Guzmán also made any possible prejudice against him harmless, the panel said. Guzmán lawyer Marc Fernich argued that his pretrial conditions in a federal jail in New York City were draconian, making it difficult for him to help prepare a proper defense. Because of security concerns, Guzmán was confined to a small, windowless cell for most of each day. The Second Circuit panel said that while the conditions were harsh, they didn’t affect his conviction.