Federal trial starts in NYC for accused drug lord 'El Chapo'

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

Security was extremely tight Monday for jury selection in the trial for Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman.

Mexico extradited Guzman to the United States in 2017, and ever since he has been held in solitary confinement at a NY federal prison.

During the trial there will be increased security, including patrols by heavily armed federal agents.

Potential jurors will be asked if they know of Guzman and if they or anyone close to them has ever felt fearful or threatened by people who they thought were associated with drug crimes.

The marathon Brooklyn federal trial, which will cost millions of dollars and is expected to last more than four months, will see Guzman face the USA justice system after twice escaping prison in Mexico, once hidden in a laundry cart and then slipping down a tunnel that reached his prison shower.

He was recruited by Guadalajara cartel boss Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, known as "The Godfather" of Mexico's modern drug cartels.

Identities of the 12 selected jurors and six alternates will remain anonymous and they will be escorted to and from the courthouse every day by armed U.S. marshals.

Opening arguments are scheduled to start on November 13, after a week set aside for jury selection, held behind closed doors with only a select "pool" of reporters admitted under the tightest security reserved for the most unsafe defendants. Opening statements in the trial are expected November 13. US Marshals will escort them every day.

The judge struck two women after they raised security concerns about presiding over the proceedings, expected to cost millions and turn into the most expensive federal trial in United States history.

So far only two potential jurors have expressed fear about safety. Another was sent home after she said she couldn't be impartial, saying, "I feel very bad about drugs".

Guzman is charged with 17 counts of murder, conspiracy, drug trafficking and money laundering.

After Felix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, Guzman's Sinaloa cartel began its meteoric rise. In the United States, opioid addiction has spiraled into an epidemic.

Guzman formerly led the Sinaloa Cartel, which became one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world, named after its base in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

United States prosecutors contend from 1989 to 2014, the Sinaloa cartel smuggled at least 155 tonnes of cocaine into the U.S., as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in US$14 billion (S$19 billion). He twice escaped from maximum security prisons in Mexico, and authorities have sought to protect trial witnesses from possible cartel retribution. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell.

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