According to court filings, prosecution witnesses will include former Sinaloa Cartel members and others involved in the drug trade who are now cooperating with the United States government. According to court papers, some are being held in special jail units for their protection, while others are in witness protection programs. Two standout possibilities are twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, former Chicago-based narcotics wholesalers who did business with Guzman before their arrest in 2008.
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. They agreed to co-operate and record phone conversations with Guzman about the size of shipments smuggled on boats and airplanes.
Heavily armed agents were standing guard Monday morning as barricades surrounded the Brooklyn federal courthouse for the start of jury selection. Prosecutors have also sought to hide the identity of co-operating witnesses out of concerns the cartel could seek retribution, while a judge is keeping the jury anonymous to protect them from intimidation. For the most part, he did not make eye contact with potential jurors, who were brought within about 10 feet (3 meters) from him for individual questioning.
The 12 jurors, with six alternates, will remain anonymous and will be escorted by U.S. marshals to and from court every day. Questions for them on an initial screening form ask if they've ever heard of "El Chapo" along with, "Have you, or has anyone close to you, ever felt fearful of or threatened by people who you thought were associated with drug crimes?" As a reason, the judge cited prosecutors" contention that Guzman's cartel "employs "sicarios, ' or hit men, who carried out hundreds of acts of violence, including murders, assaults and kidnappings".
The trial a decade in the making is cloaked in secrecy.
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 risky defendants.
There were also questioned in Brooklyn's federal court about their views on the legalization of marijuana, their fluency with Spanish and their feelings toward both law enforcement and cooperating witnesses. He said there would be adjustments, but didn't elaborate.
One of the early aspiring jurors described himself as a "Michael Jackson impersonator", prompting Guzman lawyer Eduardo Balarezo to crack, "Show us the moonwalk!" For security reasons, of course.