El Chapo's Defense Rests Case After 30 Minutes

Closing arguments set to begin Wednesday in trial of Mexican drug kingpin
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 29, 2019 1:51 PM CST
El Chapo's Defense Rests Case After 30 Minutes
A news crew broadcasts outside Brooklyn federal court, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019 in New York, during the trial of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.   (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

After a prosecution that spanned 11 weeks and had its share of bombshells, the defense case at the US trial of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman clocked in on Tuesday at a mere 30 minutes, the AP reports. Attorney Jeffrey Lichtman called one witness and entered one document into evidence before resting the defense's case. The jury was sent home for the day with closing arguments set to begin on Wednesday. Guzman could face life in prison if convicted of drug and murder conspiracy charges that his lawyers say are fabricated. It's not unheard of for defense lawyers to call few or even no witnesses. But Guzman's fleeting defense was striking because it followed a sweeping prosecution by the government that featured 56 witnesses, including colorful cooperators who described how the notorious boss of the Sinaloa cartel ran his cocaine-dealing empire with an iron fist.

By contrast, jurors watched Lichtman briefly question an FBI agent about a 2017 debriefing of one of Guzman's cocaine suppliers—government witness Jorge Cifuentes—who has given shifting accounts about his claim that a US intelligence officer once revealed sensitive investigative information with him. It appeared to be an effort to both attack Cifuentes' credibility and support the theory that Guzman was the victim of a conspiracy by the US and Mexican governments to single him out for prosecution. During cross-examinations of prosecution witnesses, defense lawyers grilled the cooperators about their own criminal backgrounds and the deals they cut with prosecutors that could shorten their sentences. The lawyers have claimed that's incentive to frame Guzman—a point that is certain to be a central theme of the defense closing argument. (For more on the aforementioned bombshells and colorful testimony, click here.)

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