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.

Compartir icon icon icon

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

INFOGRAPHICS / 24 MAY 2016

A new survey documents the effect crime is having on the way citizens in Mexico go about their daily lives…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 1 FEB 2011

On both sides of the border, Mexico's cartels have small teams that, among other assignments, procure weapons from different sources.

GUATEMALA / 4 OCT 2013

Mexican authorities have caught the alleged leader of a Guatemalan drug trafficking ring accused of massacring eight policemen in an…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…