Have you ever watched an episode of “Narcos”? Do you have any feelings about drug legalization? Are you reading this article right now?
If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, you probably won’t be able to serve as a juror in the trial of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who faces life in prison for a variety of drug and money laundering charges.
Chapo’s trial is set to begin September 5 in Brooklyn federal court, and preparations by his lawyers and federal prosecutors are already underway. The first official order of business will be picking a jury, and Chapo’s legal team and the government just jointly filed a list of 120 proposed questions (see PDF below) they want all prospective jurors to answer.
The list isn’t final — the final version will have to be approved by the judge — but the questionnaire filed Thursday offers some insights into the complexities of the case. It also shows how hard it’s going to be to find 12 people in Brooklyn who fit the criteria.
Read more: Can El Chapo get a fair trial?
First, there’s the estimated length of the trial, at least 12 weeks from start to finish. Anybody who has family obligations, travel plans, or work commitments can ask to be excused from service, though there’s no guarantee that will work.
There’s also the issue of security, which is no small matter when random members of the public are being asked to decide the fate of the world’s most notorious drug kingpin. The judge has already granted a request from prosecutors for the jurors to remain anonymous and partially sequestered. The proposed questionnaire notes that these measures are “to protect your rights of privacy,” but the defense has argued that people are smart enough to know what’s really going on, making them biased against Chapo from the start.
Many of the questions are standard for criminal cases, and are designed to weed out people who are biased or unfit to serve. But the Chapo jury questionnaire includes several queries that are unusual and highly specific. Here are a few examples:
What is your favorite book and why?
What publicly known person do you most admire and why?
What publicly known person do you least admire and why?
Do you watch any television programs or read any books about crime, including shows about drug trafficking or drug cartels, the criminal justice system or correctional institutions (e.g., jails, prisons or penitentiaries)?
This case involves allegations about a criminal enterprise commonly known as a drug cartel. Do you have any views or feelings about serving as a juror in a case where the defendant has been accused of having connections with a drug cartel?
Are you familiar with Jesus Malverde ?
Do you have any specific views or feelings concerning the legalization of drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, in this country?
The charges in this case involve allegations related to a conspiracy to murder several individuals. Is there anything about the charges, without more, that you believe would affect your ability to serve as a fair and impartial juror?
The defendant is accused of engaging in drug trafficking activity that occurred outside of the United States, knowing that the drugs would ultimately be sent to the United States. Do you have any personal feelings regarding the United States government’s prosecution of someone whose conduct mainly occurred outside of the United States?
If you are selected as a juror in this case, the judge will instruct you to avoid all media coverage, and not to go on the Internet with regard to this case for any purpose. That is, you will be forbidden from reading newspaper articles about this case, “Googling” this case, blogging/tweeting about it or posting comments on any social media sites, etc. Do you have any reservations or concerns about your ability or willingness to follow this instruction?
See below for the full list of questions, but basically it seems Chapo’s ideal juror would be somebody who has never read the news, read a book, watched TV, or browsed the internet, and would have no problem continuing to do that for three months while deciding the guilt or innocence of a powerful Mexican drug lord.
Cover image: MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - JANUARY 8: Joaquin Guzman Loera, also known as 'El Chapo' is transported to Maximum Security Prison of El Altiplano in Mexico City, Mexico on January 08, 2016. Guzman Loera, leader of Mexico's Sinaloa drug Cartel, was considered the Mexican most-wanted drug lord. Mexican marines captured 'El Chapo' on Friday in Sinaloa, North of Mexico. (Photo by Daniel Cardenas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)