“MX” for Borderland Beat; CNN
|Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez shows a picture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman during a press conference in Mexico City on July 13, 2015. (Yuri Cortez/Getty Images)|
A lawyer of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman said she is working to get the Mexican drug kingpin out of Colorado’s Supermax prison through an appeal. His attorney has until August 21, 2020, to file the appeal. But the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says a favorable appeal is unlikely. El Chapo is serving life imprisonment plus 30 years in a maximum-security facility near Florence, Colorado.
“The one thing you have to understand about the trial is that there is a mountain of evidence against El Chapo. And there’s so much more to the entire Sinaloa Cartel, that in my honest opinion, I don’t think he has a chance of an appeal”, said DEA Special Agent Ray Donovan.
El Chapo has escaped from Mexican prison twice, which prompted U.S. officials to house him in the Colorado facility that is known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies”. His attorney Mariel Colon told reporters that her client is having a “difficult time” living behind bars during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For over 25 years,”El Chapo was the feared and heavily sought after leader of the mighty and violent Sinaloa Cartel. Prosecutors have called him a “ruthless and bloodthirsty leader.” Witnesses during the trial testified that El Chapo ordered and sometimes took part in the torture and murder of perceived cartel enemies.
“What people never really grasp is the kind of evil that El Chapo really bestowed upon his own people, and certainly, on Americans through the drug trade,” he said. “Thousands of people died or were ordered killed because of the Sinaloa Cartel. So yeah, he doesn’t leave his cell. It is boring. It’s monotonous. It’s a daily routine. It is very sad but here’s the difference. He’s alive. And that means he could do plenty of things, unlike many of his victims.”
While on trial, El Chapo slammed his conditions at the Metropolitan Correction Center (MCC), a federal prison in Manhattan where he was incarcerated before being transferred to Colorado.
El Chapo’s legal team had filed requests for better prison conditions at the MCC, where he was kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day. His attorneys said that since he was brought to the US he has spent more than two years without any access to fresh air or natural light, adding that he must sleep with the light on in his cell, conditions that attorneys say are “psychologically scarring.”
Now, El Chapo’s lawyer has brought up similar concerns regarding his confinement in Colorado — but argues conditions are worse there, especially amid the pandemic.
COVID-19 is having a significant impact on the nation’s prison system, causing death and rates of infection that are 5.5 times higher than the general US population, according to a recent analysis by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
An outbreak at San Quentin State Prison, where more than half of the COVID-19 cases in state prisons have been reported, has claimed the lives of at least seven incarcerated people, according to a tally from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Due to the pandemic, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has temporarily suspended all visits and internal inmate movements order to prevent the spread of the virus inside their penitentiaries.
“He’s even more alone now after COVID-19. They completely canceled all visits, legal and social. He was allowed three hours a week of outdoor exercise but that has also been suspended in order to limit his contact with the guards, so of course this has been hard, or harder on him and it has affected Mr. Guzman emotionally and psychologically in my opinion,” she said.
After rendering the verdict, one of the 12 anonymous jurors reached out to journalist Keegan Hamilton from Vice News and alleged that many of those on the panel ignored the judge’s instructions to stay away from any news reports about the case and lied when asked if they had been exposed to certain information.
At the time, El Chapo’s attorneys filed a motion seeking a new trial, but it was denied. “I think the judge ruled correctly,” Donovan said. “He reviewed the issue and came up with an honest conclusion in my opinion. I really don’t think there is a basis there.” But according to Colon, El Chapo remains optimistic.
“My personal impression is that everyone that is facing a life sentence like that is going to hold on to every piece of hope, and, of course he’s very much looking forward to this appeal because he wants the opportunity to have a fair trial,” said Colon. Still, Donovan believes El Chapo will live out the rest of his days alone, in prison.
“No one has ever escaped Supermax. He has no chance at all of ever getting out of there.”