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Patron saint of drug traffickers looms over upcoming trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

May 8, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Patron saint of drug traffickers looms over upcoming trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman

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The form that will be filled out by potential jurors in the forthcoming federal trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman includes a topic about Mexico’s version of Robin Hood.

“Are you familiar with Jesus Malverde?” is listed as question 57 in the document. “Yes, no; please explain.”

Malverde is the patron saint of the cartels and drug traffickers. Mexican folklore indicates that the so-called “narco-saint” is a Robin Hood character who took from the rich and gave to the poor.

The addition of a question about Malverde for jurors in the prosecution of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman may mean that authorities believe the drug lord will try to portray himself as a social do-gooder, despite the violent foundation of his philanthropy.

A jury pool of up to 1,000 individuals are expected to be called to court in Brooklyn for the El Chapo trial, now scheduled to begin in September.

According to ABC7, a newly-filed, 36-page questionnaire includes many of the standard questions about history, media habits and prior knowledge of the case, lawyers, or the judge.

However, the question of Jesus Malverde stands out as an indication of just how curious El Chapo’s case is. The drug lord’s defense team is expected to cast him as a significant financial backer of community programs in Sinaloa.

It is not known whether Malverde was an actual individual, but he has a memorial in Sinaloa and numerous chapels named after him in Mexico and Colombia. In many instances, law enforcement on both sides of the border believes that Malverde images are an sign of involvement with drug cartels.

The prevalence of the “generous bandit” is seen in statues, trinkets and other icons throughout the region, and frequently discovered in drug dealer’s cars and homes to bring good luck and, perhaps, ward off authorities. Some of them even place El Chapo’s face onto Malverde’s clothing, as if the two are one person.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan has said that potential jurors would arrive in court in July and early August to complete the questionnaires.

The large size of the juror pool points to an anticipated difficulty of assigning jurors to determine the fate of Guzman. Typical cases involve much smaller pools.

The questionnaire also describes how long the proceeding will take.

“This trial is expected to begin on September 5, and last twelve weeks,” the newly-filed document indicated. “Court sessions will last from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. There are breaks in the morning and afternoon and a one-hour break for lunch. There will be a break for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well as Thanksgiving weekend.”

The jurors’ identities will be kept confidential after prosecutors persuaded the judge that their safety might be at risk. Two significant witnesses in the case against El Chapo will be from Chicago, where the kingpin is also identified in an indictment. Pedro and Margarito Flores secretly recorded private conversations with El Chapo, who didn’t realize the twins from Little Village had cooperated with U.S. authorities.

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