After three months of court proceedings, a Brooklyn jury declared Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman guilt on all counts Tuesday, wrapping a long trial that saw 56 witnesses paint a grimly detailed portrait of one of the world's largest drug cartels.
The storied drug kingpin faced ten counts pertaining to murder conspiracy, money laundering, firearms possession, and engineering the transportation of more than 200 tons of cocaine into the United States over the course of two decades.
"His conviction is a victory for every American family who lost a loved one to the black hole of drug addiction," U.S. District Attorney Richard Donoghue reportedly said at a press conference outside the courthouse.
Jury selection in Guzman's trial began in November, kicking off months of testimony at the Federal District Courthouse in Downtown Brooklyn. During that time, jurors heard from 14 cooperators who detailed not only Guzman's outlandish spending—former employees recalled how the $14 billion fortune he allegedly made off a thriving drug trade afforded him such luxuries as a personal zoo and a yacht called "Chapito"—but also the brutal murders he reportedly ordered.
Indeed, one witness testified that he watched the Sinaloa cartel boss beat two men with tree branches until their bodies went limp "like rag dolls," according to the Department of Justice, before shooting them and having his henchman throw the bodies in a bonfire. That same witness also told the court that Guzman once shot one of his rivals before ordering his hitmen to bury the man alive.
Prosecutors also played audio in which Guzman could be heard discussing plans to move drugs—including "ice," or methamphetamine—into U.S. cities. They explained how Guzman orchestrated the smuggling of cocaine by packing the powder inside jalapeno cans. And just before the jury was set to begin deliberations, they introduced documents alleging Guzman habitually drugged and raped young girls. According to the NY Times, the documents said that "Guzman considered the youngest of the girls to be 'his vitamins' because raping them gave him 'life.'" (Guzman denied this.)
Throughout the trial, the defense team reportedly leaned on the idea that cooperators simply sought to offload guilt for their own crimes onto Guzman. In late January, his attorneys seemed ready to put Guzman on the stand, but ultimately, he did not appear, and the defense lasted only 30 minutes.
"We fought like hell," another of the prosecuting attorneys," Jeffrey Lichtman, an attorney for Guzman, reportedly said Tuesday. "We fought like complete savages and we left it all on the battlefield."
Prosecutors, meanwhile, stretched their case over 10 weeks, and reportedly argued that Guzman's previous efforts to jailbreak himself—El Chapo infamously escaped from prison in Mexico on two separate occasions—betrayed his own guilt.
"He never wanted to be in a position where he would have to answer for his crimes," prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg said, according to ABC 7. Further, she contended, he intended to escape from U.S. prison after his 2017 capture, which accounts for authorities' decision to hold him in solitary confinement. "He wanted to avoid sitting right there. In front of you."
The case went to jurors on February 4th, cuing more than a week of deliberations during which they asked for thousands of pages of testimony from the trial, according to the NY Times. The charges against him carry a mandatory minimum life sentence, served in U.S. prison.
This post has been updated throughout.