Joaquin “El Chapo” will face court in New York this week. Picture: AP
Joaquin “El Chapo” will face court in New York this week. Picture: AP

Anxious juror delays ‘El Chapo’ trial

The long wait to hear the opening arguments in the trial of one of the world's most notorious criminals "El Chapo" has been delayed even further after a juror was excused because of anxiety.

The New York trial focuses on Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who is accused of spending a quarter of a century smuggling cocaine into the United States.

Twelve jurors and six alternates had been selected last week from a pool of dozens in which several were dismissed because they feared for their lives and another who had suffered a panic attack.

The seven women and five men were to determine whether Guzman is guilty on 11 trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges during what is expected to be a more than four-month trial.

But today, the jury lost at least one member before it was even officially sworn in.

The New York Post reported that an "anxious and upset" juror brought a doctor's note saying she could not serve on the jury.

District Judge Brian Cogan subsequently spent the morning interviewing potential jurors to replace the dismissed juror, putting opening statements from prosecutors and the defence on the back burner.

The names of all jurors will be kept anonymous under razor-tight security protocols. They will be partially sequestered, escorted to and from court every day by armed US Marshals.

Guzman is accused of leading the Sinaloa cartel and turning it into the largest criminal organisation on the planet.

He was extradited to the United States in 2017 after twice escaping from prison in Mexico.

The 61-year-old is considered the world's largest drug trafficker since the death of Colombia's Pablo Escobar.

Prosecutors say that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled 154,626 kilograms of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $US14 billion.

NEW YORK LOCKED DOWN AHEAD OF TRIAL

Parts of New York were locked down ahead of the trial, which has prompted "unprecedented" security measures and closed the Brooklyn Bridge to transport Guzman from his cell in Manhattan to a Brooklyn court.

Its unknown how long it will take to get the alternate on the jury so both sides could make their opening statements.

Protecting the 12 jurors has been one of the key prosecution challenges for the trial.

Because of security concerns, they are not being identified and federal marshals are transporting them to and from the court.

When the jury pool is finalised their names will be kept anonymous under razor-tight security protocols.

They will be partially sequestered, escorted to and from court every day by armed US Marshals.

Guzman's wife Emma Coronel arrived at court to watch the proceedings.

EL CHAPO PRISON BREAKS

Guzman twice escaped from prison in Mexico, once hidden in a laundry cart and the second time slipping down a tunnel that reached his prison shower.

US prosecutors have spent years piecing together a case that they hope will end with Guzman spending the rest of his life behind bars in a maximum-security prison.

He has pleaded not guilty, but the government has presented so much evidence - more than 300,000 pages and at least 117,000 recordings - that the defence complains they haven't had time to review it all.

More than a dozen of the several hundred witnesses expected to testify are in witness protection programs or are already in jail, housed in special wings to protect them from reprisals.

Prosecutors have said the security is necessary because of Guzman's history of intimidating and even ordering murders of potential witnesses. Guzman's lawyers have called those claims unfounded.

According to court filings, witnesses will include former Sinaloa Cartel members and others involved in the drug trade who are now co-operating with the US government.