Trial of former Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez to be divided into several phases

The trial will begin on Monday, February 12, 2024. If convicted, Hernandez could be sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison, like his brother Tony Hernandez and his collaborator Giovanni Fuentes, who also participated same network.

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The trial of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who is accused of drug trafficking, will be held in Room D on the 11th floor of the U.S. Federal Court for the Southern District of New York.

The judicial process, which begins this week, will be divided into six stages, as laid out in federal statutes and the U.S. Constitution itself.

Key to former President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s drug trafficking trial

Hernandez’s term was extended from 2014 to 2022 after the U.S. Attorney’s Office accused Hernandez of participating in and protecting a network that transported more than 500 tons of cocaine into the United States between 2004 and 2022.

The charges allege that the drug money helped him enrich himself and “fund his political campaigns and commit electoral fraud” in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections.

If found guilty, Hernandez would follow other former Latin American leaders convicted in the United States, such as Panamanian Antonio Manuel Noriega in 1992 and Guatemalan Alfonso Portillo in 2014 . His sentence will be life in prison.

-Jury selection: The jury, the selection of the parties to the proceedings; prosecutors, defense attorneys and Judge Kevin Castel himself will question a group of New York citizens, form a jury and decide the guilt or innocence of the former president based on the evidence presented.

Jury selection will take place in one of the courtrooms.

When a potential juror does not meet the necessary requirements, a party has the right to have reason to challenge the suitability or competency of a juror.

Once the litigants present testimony and evidence, the judge will be responsible for issuing instructions to the jury setting out the jury’s responsibility to decide the case based on the principles of legality.

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The jury shall consider as evidence only the statements of witnesses, experts, and documentary evidence.

-debate: It will be the Manhattan DA’s office that will present opening arguments first, as it is their responsibility to present evidence throughout the trial.

– Interrogation and cross-examination: The prosecutor’s office plans to present six to 10 cooperating witnesses.

Most of them are powerful drug lords who for ten years have decided to expose to the American justice system the entire narco-political conspiracy developing in Honduras, which has influenced former presidents, mayors, representatives and businessmen.

By law, a witness must have personal knowledge of the facts about which he or she is testifying. That is, they must reveal what they saw or heard about the case and learn about the person they are testifying against.

-Closing argument: Prosecutors must present a conclusion to the trial and ask the jury to convict based on the evidence presented.

For his part, the former president’s lawyers will challenge the evidence – as he has done throughout the process – and demand an eventual acquittal.

-Instructions to the judge: These instructions are legal standards that help determine the guilt or innocence of a former president.

-Deliberation: The entire jury will be moved to a room away from the trial and will agree on whether Hernandez is responsible for the events. It will be the first time the jury will talk about the case because it was previously prohibited.

In complex cases like Hernandez’s, deliberations can last for days.

If the jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict, the jury is “hung” and the judge can declare a mistrial and you will have to start a new trial.

Information from La Prenza (Honduras)

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