Potential juror tossed for wanting El Chapo autograph

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, pictured in Mexico after his recapture in January 2016, is one of the world's most notorious criminals and is on trial accused of spending a quarter of a century smuggling cocaine into the United States (AFP Photo/ALFREDO ESTRELLA)
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New York (AFP) - A potential juror in the mammoth New York trial of Mexican drug baron Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was dismissed by the judge on Tuesday after requesting the defendant's autograph.

The man, whose identity is withheld along with all potential jurors under the rigorous security arrangements surrounding the trial, was born in Colombia but has spent the last 20 years living in New York.

He told the court during his interview that he was aware of drug trafficking because he was born in Medellin, the hometown of former Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, and that he liked televised crime dramas, but insisted that would not affect his judgement should he be impaneled.

But Tuesday he was reported to have asked a court security officer for Guzman's autograph, one of the most notorious criminals in the world whose trial is expected to become the most expensive in US federal trial history.

Brought back for questioning by District Judge Brian Cogan, he admitted having made the request. When asked why, the man replied: "I'm a bit of a fan." Guzman flashed a smile.

The prosecution objected and the defense argued he should stay, but Cogan struck him.

El Chapo, one of the most notorious criminals in the world, attended the second day of jury selection dressed in a black suit, pale blue shirt and large plaid-patterned tie.

Of nearly 60 potential jurors questioned, none have yet been impaneled and 27 have been dismissed, including five who have voiced security concerns.

One of them was a young woman, whom the judge said had cried profusely in the hall, saying that her mother had told her "we've got to move and get a new house." Chapo laughed in response.

"She's worried the pressure on her mother will be injurious to her health," said Cogan, before dismissing her.

Among the others struck were a potential juror who had a panic attack and was taken to hospital, a Michael Jackson impersonator whose job was deemed too identifiable and a man who liked an "El Chapo" sandwich at a deli near his workplace, who complained that could also make him identifiable.

Twelve jurors and six alternates will be selected to decide whether Guzman, who is accused of spending 25 years smuggling cocaine into the United States, is guilty on 11 trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.