Nov. 8 (UPI) -- A federal judge Wednesday said Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman may undergo a psychological exam after his lawyer said harsh jail conditions affected the Mexican drug lord's mental state.
Defense attorney Eduardo Balarezo sent a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Brian Cogan last week saying Guzman has complained of auditory hallucinations, depression and a feeling of persecution, and he believes the government is recording his visits.
"Counsel has noticed that Mr. Guzman has begun repeating himself often and sometimes forgetting what the discussion is about," Balarezo wrote. "In addition to his apparent mental decline, Mr. Guzman also suffers from myriad physical problems, including constant headaches, ringing in his ears and throat pain."
Cogan agreed Guzman could undergo the examination but that he couldn't have contact with the psychologist.
"Get her in there as soon as you can," Cogan said of the psychologist.
Guzman escaped from prison twice in Mexico so he is being held in a high-security section of the federal jail in Manhattan. He is isolated from other inmates and visitors for 23 hours a day with one hour for exercise.
Balarezo's letter says Guzman is allowed minimal contact with his defense team and family. He also complained of "frigid" cell temperatures, lack of clean bed linens and fresh air, and constant lighting in his cell disrupting his sleep.
Guzman has pleaded not guilty to a 17-count indictment that accuses him of leading the Sinaloa Cartel, responsible for importing drugs into the United States and murdering rivals. Should he be convicted at trial -- scheduled for April 2018, he faces up to life in prison.
"El Chapo" -- meaning "The Short One" or "shorty" -- so dubbed because of his 5-foot-6-inch frame, was first captured in Guatemala in 1993 and again in 2016.
Guzman's cartel is credited with dominating the illegal drug market in nearly the entire United States, according to a report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The report states the criminal organization is most powerful "along the West Coast, through the Midwest and into the Northeast."