United States v. Griselda Blanco

We typically think of Central and South American cartel leaders as men.  We're familiar with such infamous characters as El Chapo, Pablo Escobar, and more recently, El Mencho.  But if we take a serious look through history, we would see that it wasn't always a man's world.  While we tend to believe that the world of the Colombian cartels importing huge quantities of drugs into the United States started with Escobar, the reality is he was following the lead of Griselda Blanco, perhaps the most ruthless female narcotics trafficker who ever lived.

This was a particularly interesting case to research, as Paul had heard Blanco's name before, but knew next to nothing about her.  Her legal issues were fascinating.  Unlike any other cartel leader, she ran her criminal organization from the United States while still keeping strict control over all operations in Colombia.  This naturally subjected her to intense pressure from law enforcement, resulting in her flight from Queens, New York back to Colombia, only to return years later to Miami, Florida to pick up where she left off.  

In this case, we look at a topic which comes up in most narco-trafficking federal criminal cases, cooperating witnesses.  That there is a lot of confusion as to what actually goes into turning a criminal into a cooperator, what the obligations of each side are, and ultimately who makes the decision about what ultimately happens to them.  Paul discusses this topic in depth so listeners will get a full understanding of the process.

Additionally, this case presents the opportunity to discuss an often overlooked aspect of criminal practice, speedy trial.  The 6th Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant a speedy trial, and every jurisdiction has their own set of rules as to what exactly that means and how they define “speedy.”  The Supreme Court has even weighed in on it.  Blanco's trial for drug trafficking took place 10 years after she was indicted.  The law provides that once an indictment is filed, the prosecutor only has 70 days of chargeable time to bring a case to trial, or else the charges have to be dismissed.

Naturally, Blanco's attorneys brought this up to the federal court overseeing her case.  Hear how the court addressed the issue and get insight into the argument between a policy position and a stance based on the strict text of a statute.

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