On Wednesday, a member of the jury told the outlet that even though a judge had ordered jurors not to look at the news, at least five jurors and two alternates saw media coverage of the Mexican drug lord’s case from news reports and Twitter feeds. Jurors became aware of possibly prejudicial materials that they weren’t supposed to see.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was convicted on Feb. 12 on drug and conspiracy charges and could be jailed for the remainder of his life. After three months of testimony, jurors deliberated for six days. El Chapo’s sentencing is slated for June.
El Chapo’s lawyer, Eduardo Balarezo, said the concerns of potential juror misconduct “are deeply concerning and distressing.”
“The juror’s allegations of the jury’s repeated and widespread disregard and contempt for the Court’s instructions, if true, make it clear that Joaquin did not get a fair trial,” Balarezo said in a statement, per Vice. “We will review all available options before deciding on a course of action.”
The jury was frequently warned to not look at news coverage of the case, involving “anything on TV, radio, newspaper, websites, blogs or social media.”
While it’s too soon to talk about the probability of throwing out the verdict, this could permit the defense to request a chance to question jurors about consuming news coverage and if it impacted their decisions. “This person has got to come in and answer some questions,” said former federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein, per AP.
The juror who spoke with Vice requested to remain anonymous and wouldn’t give a name to the reporter. However, the juror talked to the reporter via video chat for two hours, and the reporter remembered the juror from the trial.
The jurors learned from media coverage that El Chapo allegedly drugged and raped underage girls, a piece of evidence that was unreleased during trial since it was viewed as prejudicial.
The claims of rape were made public the day prior to deliberations, and appeared in news coverage on the case. However, the juror said the news didn’t affect Guzman’s guilty verdict, per Vice. “That didn’t change nobody’s mind for sure,” the juror told Vice. “We weren’t really hung up on that. It was just like a five-minute talk and that’s it, no more talking about that.”
When the reporter asked the juror why the judge wasn’t told about the misconduct, the juror said, “I thought we would get arrested. I thought they would hold me in contempt... I didn’t want to say anything or rat out my fellow jurors. I didn’t want to be that person. I kept it to myself.”