WICHITA FALLS, TX (KFDX/KJTL) — A first-of-its-kind murder trial ends with a guilty verdict Wednesday afternoon, believed to be a precedent setting case for the state of Texas and the ongoing battle against Fentanyl.
At around 2:45 p.m. on September 27, 2023, a Wichita County jury of nine women and three men returned its verdict of guilty of murder for Jasinto Jimenez, 22, for the death of Andres Diaz last year. They deliberated for just over an hour.
District Attorney John Gillespie opted to go for a murder conviction even before state lawmakers enacted a new law this year allowing murder charges for fentanyl dealers after a user dies.
Police said Jimenez sold two pills containing fentanyl to a woman, Leigha Smith, who gave one to the 21-year-old Diaz. Smith was also originally charged with murder but it was later reduced to manslaughter. She testified for the state on Tuesday about buying the pills and Diaz crushing his and snorting it. She testified he died in the car while she was inside watching a movie after she couldn’t wake him up.
Prosecutor Matt Shelton began his case by telling jurors Jimenez was guilty by definition because he knew he was dealing deadly fentanyl. Defense Attorney Michael Valverde argued that his client should not be on trial for murder because the felony drug offense had already been committed when Diaz died and asked them to convict him on the drug charge, not murder.
During closing arguments, First Assistant District Attorney Dobie Kosub said that it is like blaming the bullet instead of the person pulling the trigger. He said the only reason there were not two dead people instead of one was that Leigha Smith swallowed her pill with Gatorade and Diaz snorted his. The punishment phase begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning. The jury has a range of 5 to 99 years or life to consider.