El Chapo's United States drugs trial kicks off under tight security


Mr Heroy estimates the trial will cost USA taxpayers "more than US$50 million", a price tag that includes protection programmes for at least some of the hundreds of witnesses expected to testify.

USA prosecutors have spent years piecing together a sweeping case against Guzman, which they hope will end with the 61-year-old spending the rest of his life in a maximum-security United States prison.

He was extradited to the United States from Mexico on January 19, 2017, after escaping twice from Mexican prisons before being captured again. There are extra precautions being taken for witnesses and jurors to ensure their safety, as well.

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In what he called a small concession to the defence, Judge Cogan ruled that opening statements in the trial would begin no earlier than 13 November, which could allow some extra time to prepare if jury selection finishes early next week.

Although the charges in the case all relate to drug trafficking, prosecutors are also expected to introduce evidence that Guzman was involved in multiple murder plots in the course of his career, including in wars with rival cartels. He faces life in prison if convicted.

The Mexican drug lord is accused of running the world's most powerful drug cartel. "Probably not. The machine keeps rolling", says Rob Heroy, a North Carolina lawyer who has defended other Mexican drug barons. In the United States, opioid addiction has spiraled into an epidemic.

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Potential jurors were quizzed Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, about their attitudes on drug trafficking and how much attention they've paid to news reports about Guzman.

The judge also agreed with prosecutors that the jury for the case should be kept anonymous, a measure typical in terrorism or mob cases where jury intimidation is a concern. Prosecutors say the Sinaloa Cartel, named for Guzman's home state, smuggled more than 200 tons of cocaine into the United States. Some are expected to testify under aliases.

In a secret meeting with actor Sean Penn which the Hollywood star wrote about in Rolling Stone magazine in 2016, Guzman boasted: "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world". Some of them are being held in special jail units, while others are in witness protection programs.

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Guzman has been held in solitary confinement in NY since Mexico extradited him in January 2017, one day before Donald Trump took office.