By Steve Frank, CBS News
The Brooklyn trial of accused Mexican drug cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman wrapped up its sixth week Thursday on an emotional note.
Guzman was reduced to tears when his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, who had been missing from court this week, made a return with their twin daughters, who were seen waving at their father.
The moment will likely have an impact on the jury, said criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor Vinoo Varghese.
“One of the things as defense lawyers we like to do is humanize our clients because, in the words of the government, they’re the worst person in the world,” Varghese said on CBSN.
“The other thing that came out during the testimony was that apparently [El Chapo’s] a very polite guy. So when he’s on the phone, he’s asking ‘how are you doing’,” Varghese said, referring to some of the government’s recorded conversations.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to a 17-count indictment that includes charges of drug smuggling, money laundering and conspiring to murder. Intense security was put in place around the federal courthouse in Brooklyn after Guzman, 61, twice escaped Mexican jails.
Two of Guzman’s attorneys are now banned from using cellphones inside the federal courthouse because they allegedly gave his wife one to use during the proceedings. Michael Lambert and Mariel Colon Miro denied the allegations but U.S. District Court Judge Brian CoganThursday admonished the duo for their “lack of candor.”
“I know [Cogan] very well. I tried two cases before him,” said Varghese “He is a no-nonsense tough judge — tough on everybody.”
Before the trial adjourned for a two-week break for the holidays, an ATF firearms expert showed jurors the weapons the government says El Chapo and members of his Sinaloa Cartel frequently used to carry out drug operations, including an AK-47 and a grenade launcher.
“They got to keep the jury entertained. I mean just in the first week, some of the jurors were falling asleep,” said Varghese.
Guzman’s attorneys have argued their client is actually the fall guy for his longtime partner, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, who allegedly paid off Mexican government officials and is believed to be still at large in Mexico.
Judge Cogan has cautioned Guzman’s defense team against making statements that might not be supported by evidence, but “yesterday there was testimony about a former Mexican security chief receiving bribes,” Varghese said, “so some of this stuff that he’s talking about is coming out and if they can tie all this together, I think there’s a chance El Chapo could walk.”
First published on December 21, 2018 / 5:17 PM
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