Jury selection begins in U.S. trial of Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo'

Joaquin El Chapo Guzman trial begins in New York Monday but it will be behind closed doors

Jury selection began Monday for the US trial of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman with potential jurors, including a self-described professional Michael Jackson impersonator, quizzed about how much they knew about Guzman's reputation as a ruthless drug lord in Mexico.

His beauty queen wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, was barred from the selection process as are all members of the public to protect jurors from any threat. Guzman will join the ranks of mobsters John Gotti and Vincent Basciano, whose career-ending appearances in the Eastern District courthouse each brought in more than 1,000 potential jurors.

During his previous court appearances, Guzman received a police escort as he was transported from Manhattan to the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse with the Brooklyn Bridge shut down and Tillary Street blocked off with armed guards present the entire time.

Opening arguments are scheduled to start on November 13, after a week of jury selection, held behind closed doors under security reserved for the most unsafe defendants.

Guzman, one of the most notorious criminals in the world, sat in court sporting a navy suit, white shirt with a wide disco-style collar and various buttons undone, flashing a smile for the start of jury selection. Opening statements are likely November 13. Guzman has been held in solitary confinement in NY since Mexico extradited him in January 2017, one day before Donald Trump took office.

U.S. prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Guzman directed the movement of multi-ton shipments of drugs including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine across borders and into the United States.

Although the charges in the case all relate to drug trafficking, prosecutors are also expected to introduce evidence that Guzman was involved in multiple murder plots in the course of his career, including in wars with rival cartels.

Prosecutors say Guzman's operation earned more than $14 billion.

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That tipped off investigators to his location.

A few months earlier, Guzman gave a widely publicised interview to American actor Sean Penn for Rolling Stone magazine in which he said: "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world".

He was captured in Guatemala in 1993 and extradited to Mexico.

Prosecutors say Guzman was in the habit of ordering the killings of anyone who got in his way during his heyday in Mexico as boss of the Sinaloa cartel. He was serving a 20-year sentence on drug-trafficking charges in a different prison when he pulled off an intricate escape in 2001.

"Guzman Loera is accused of using violence, including torture and murder, to maintain an iron-fisted grip on the drug trade across the U.S. -Mexico border, ' then-Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said". In the United States, opioid addiction has spiraled into an epidemic.

Bacon reported from Virginia.

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