NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Opening statements were delayed Tuesday in the high-profile trial of alleged Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
A juror had to be excused for an unknown reason shortly before they were set to start.
Intense security was put in place around the federal courthouse in Brooklyn after Guzman, 61, escaped Mexican jails not once but twice.
In his opening statement, a U.S. Attorney told the jury that they’ll hear from the alleged kingpin in his own words. He added they’ll see his text messages as he directed what they calld a drug trafficking organization that funneled hundreds of tons of cocaine into the United States.
El Chapo’s lawyers say he’s being framed by cooperators. Either way, the defendant is expected to be kept in Brooklyn during the week. Each time he is transported back to a Manhattan correctional facility, he will be escorted by a highly secure motorcade which involves shutting down part of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Heavily armed officers and plainclothes surveillance teams will also be stationed outside the courthouse.
“Any major high-threat trial, any high-value target – whether it be organized crime, terrorism, drug traffickers – New York is the premiere place to have these trials, these high security trials,” said John Cuff, a retired chief with the U.S. marshal service.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to 17 charges, including drug smuggling, money laundering and conspiring to murder.
Given the history of violence by him and his associates, jurors will receive special security, as well.
The judge has ordered they remain anonymous and partially sequestered. They will also be transported to and from the courthouse by armed federal marshals.
“The United States Marshals Service is very used to these kinds of proceedings. There have been many with anonymous jurors and the security is intense,” criminal defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt said.
The trial is expected to last about four months. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
In the meantime, he’s being held in solitary confinement. A judge previously denied his request to hug his wife.