HomeNewsBriefIf Extradited, 'El Chapo' May Face Murder Charges in New York
BRIEF

If Extradited, 'El Chapo' May Face Murder Charges in New York

EL CHAPO / 16 FEB 2016 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

If extradited to the United States, Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán appears likely to stand trial in a New York federal court, where, in a strange and potentially game-changing twist, murder charges have been filed against the infamous drug lord.

According to Proceso, homicide charges against Guzmán in indictment 1:09-CR-00466-SLT in the Eastern District Court of New York mark the first time a drug trafficker has been charged for murders of non-US citizens committed outside US territory.

US Department of Justice experts quoted by Proceso say it is possible to charge someone for a murder committed outside the United States using the legal concept of "extraterritorial jurisdiction."

However, this is typically applied for crimes against US citizens. In El Chapo's case, the murders in question are of Mexican citizens committed in Mexico and include informants, law enforcement and military personnel, and members of rival drug trafficking organizations. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Chapo 

Loretta Lynch, the district's head prosecutor at the time, signed the indictment, which was filed on September 25, 2014. Lynch, named US Attorney General in April 2015, is likely to have final discretion over where El Chapo will stand trial, and it is expected she will send him to her former district.

El Chapo has been indicted in seven US federal courts.

According to the legal experts cited by Proceso, however, the murder charges create a potential vulnerability in the case against Guzmán by raising the possibility prosecutors are stretching US jurisdiction too far.

InSight Crime Analysis

Charging El Chapo with murder is an interesting decision given the risks involved. While El Chapo would almost certainly be convicted on drug charges, prosecutors may also be seeking a murder trial owing to stiffer prison sentences in murder convictions.

Yet, as Proceso suggests, no other drug traffickers extradited to the United States have faced murder charges. And federal prosecutors may be overreaching. 

If prosecuted successfully, however, the move could create an important precedent for future extradition cases.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Extradition

The irony would not be lost on Colombians who have watched as numerous former paramilitary warlords, responsible for thousands of deaths in that country's civil war, were tried on drug trafficking charges and then released after sometimes short sentences in jail due to their cooperation.

To be sure, US prosecutors and judges studiously avoided questions regarding wholesale massacres, high-level political assassinations and forced mass displacement. In one instance, a judge nearly applauded a former paramilitary commander because, as he told him, "You believed you were saving the lives of your people," and then opened the door for him to leave prison in four years.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HUMAN SMUGGLING / 7 FEB 2011

In a phenomenon that has United States border officials scratching their heads, a record wave of immigrants from India have…

MEXICO / 16 NOV 2016

A meditation technique has been praised for pacifying what was once among Mexico's most violent prisons, demonstrating the success of…

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 18 SEP 2020

Chihuahua is Mexico’s biggest state, and more than a fifth of its 25,000 hectares is forested, mostly with pine trees…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…

THE ORGANIZATION

Tracking Dirty Money and Tren de Aragua

29 OCT 2021

InSight Crime was delighted to support investigative reporting in the Americas through a workshop with our friends at Connectas, a non-profit journalism initiative that facilitates collaboration…