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EL Chapo trial jury selection begins in Brooklyn

Jury selection in 'El Chapo' trial set to begin Monday in New York

Almost a decade after a Brooklyn grand jury handed down the first of many indictments against him, jury selection will finally begin Monday for notorious cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera.

Joaquin Guzman is accused of killing thousands of people while running the Sinaloa drug cartel and shipping tons of cocaine into the United States. Guzman sat at the defense table listening through an interpreter and wearing street clothes - a dark suit and a white shirt with an open collar - instead a jail uniform for the first time since he was extradicted to the United States early previous year.

The courthouse was a veritable fortress Monday, as heavily armed officers and bomb-sniffing dogs periodically checked the exterior. The jurors were called into the courtroom wearing stickers identifying them by number, their names withheld to protect their safety.

Guzman, who was captured in 2016 after tunneling his way out of a maximum securiy Mexican jail, was brought to New York City in January 2017 to face murder and drug conspiracy charges.

Joaquin Archivaldo Guzmán Loera has always made up for his size, even if his nickname, "El Chapo", or Shorty, is a constant reminder of his squat, 5-feet-5-inches frame.

The judge indicated he thinks the time and expense involved would add up to a logistical nightmare - and an inconvenience for New Yorkers who rely on the bridge to commute - for a trial expected to last as long as four months.

One of the early aspiring jurors described himself as a "Michael Jackson impersonator", prompting Guzman lawyer Eduardo Balarezo to crack, "Show us the moonwalk!"

USA prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Guzman directed the movement of multi-ton shipments of drugs including heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine across borders and into the United States.

Guzman has pleaded not guilty to overseeing a multibillion-dollar drug operation and a ruthless campaign of murders and kidnappings of his rivals. Gómez said a journey to the rugged Sierra Madre by American actor Sean Penn put investigators on Guzman's doorstep.

According to court filings, prosecution witnesses will include former Sinaloa Cartel members and others involved in the drug trade who are now cooperating with the U.S. government. After a 2001 escape, he kept the machine moving while on the run, hiding for 13 years in plain sight.

"It's probably set up to be the most expensive trial in the history of the US", said Rob Heroy, a North Carolina lawyer who has defended other Mexican drug barons.

It is alleged that he spent a quarter of a century smuggling more than 155 tonnes of cocaine into the United States.

In his way now is a lineup of government witnesses who survived the wave of violence and are expected to give details about the ruthless way he kept power for 20 years in the cutthroat world of worldwide drug trafficking.

Bacon reported from Virginia.