US Attorney General Loretta Lynch

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.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions of ...

The Victory of the Urabeños - The New Face of Colombian Organized Crime

The Victory of the Urabeños - The New Face of Colombian Organized Crime

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

50 years of the FARC: War, Drugs and Revolution

50 years of the FARC: War, Drugs and Revolution

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is in sight. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, for themselves and especially for their children, the enemies of the peace negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the ...

Mexico’s Security Dilemma: Michoacan’s Militias

 Mexico’s Security Dilemma: Michoacan’s Militias

Well-armed vigilantes in Mexico's Michoacan state have helped authorities dismantle a powerful criminal organization, but now the government may have a more difficult task: keeping Michoacan safe from the vigilantes and rival criminal groups.

Uruguay, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

After the lower house passed the controversial marijuana bill July 31, Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug, and provide a model for countries looking for alternatives to the world’s dominant drug policy paradigm. ...

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives And Negatives

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives And Negatives

Whether it is sustainable or not, the truce -- which the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Barrio 18 put into place March 2012 -- has changed the conventional thinking about who the gangs are and what is the best way to handle the most difficult law and order ...

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is in sight. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, for themselves and especially for their children, the enemies of the peace negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the ...

Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police and Transportistas

Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police and Transportistas

Since the end of El Salvador's civil war, the country's police has become a key player in the underworld. This series of five articles explore the dark ties between criminal organizations and the government's foremost crime fighting institution.

Juarez after the War

Juarez after the War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality. InSight Crime looks at the role politicians, police, and for-hire street gangs played in the fighting -- asking who ...