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Federal Judge in El Chapo Trial Murdered in Broad Daylight

Maureen Meehan

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El Chapo

Vicente Bermudez Zacarias, the judge who presided over Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s appeals case, was shot and killed while jogging near his home in Metepec, a town west of Mexico City.

Security camera footage shows Judge Bermúdez Zacarías, 37, jogging slowly near his home on Monday morning when a man in black sprints up behind him, shoots him in the head, then runs away. The judge was taken to hospital but later died of his wounds.

Zacarias was on the bench during appeals by Guzman, now serving time in prison for his role as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. He also oversaw the cases of Miguel Trevino, former leader of the Zetas cartel, and leader of Jalisco New Generation Cartel, Abigail González Valencia, aka El Cuini, after he was arrested last year.

According to SDP Noticias, despite overseeing a variety of cases involving prominent members of Mexico’s most powerful cartels, Zacarias was not provided with any special protective measures.

José Refugio Rodríguez, one of Guzmán’s lawyers, told Mexico’s El Excelsior that there’s no good reason to assume Guzmán had anything to do with the judge’s murder, saying that his client wasn’t affected and didn’t benefit from it.

Guzman’s lawyer has lobbied, so far unsuccessfully, for el Chapo to be returned to the “Altiplano” maximum-security facility west of Mexico City from which he escaped through a secret tunnel in July 2015. He was recaptured in January 2016.

El Chapo is currently in a prison in the border town of Ciudad Juarez, awaiting extradition to the U.S. to face a long list of drug trafficking charges.

The blatant daytime murder of a federal judge underscores how vulnerable judges are in their role in the country’s decade-long drug war, although this was the first assassination of a federal judge in 10 years.

In a news conference, Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, vowed an investigation by his attorney general.

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