UPDATE: Monday, September 25, 2023, at 5:20 p.m.
According to officials with the Wichita County Courthouse, a jury has been selected and seated in the murder trial of Jasinto Jimenez, who stands accused of selling two pills containing fentanyl, one of which ultimately led to the death of 21-year-old Andres Diaz in July 2022.
Opening statements are set to begin on Tuesday, September 26, 2023, with Matt Shelton, Wichita County’s Assistant Criminal District Attorney, representing the prosecution and Michael Valverde representing Jimenez as his defense attorney, with Judge Jeff McKnight presiding.
WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — The process of selecting a jury of twelve men and women is underway in a potentially ground-breaking and precedent-setting fentanyl-related murder trial, the first of its kind in Wichita County.
Jasinto Jimenez, 22, of Wichita Falls, is charged with the murder of 21-year-old Andres Diaz in July 2022. Police said Jimenez sold two pills containing Fentanyl to a woman, who gave one to Diaz. According to police, Diaz later ingested the pill, ultimately leading to his death.
The trial was originally set to get underway on August 7, 2023, but 30th District Court Judge Jeff McKnight, who is presiding over this trial, granted a motion from the state for a continuance. The motion, unopposed by Jimenez’s defense team, moved the start of the trial to Monday, September 25, 2023.
The murder trial of Jimenez marks a first for Wichita County in that no other defendant charged with murder for dealing a fatal dose of fentanyl has yet faced a judge and jury.
Jimenez and the woman who gave Diaz the pill, Leigha Smith, 23, of Wichita Falls, were charged in September 2022 with the murder of Diaz. Both have been jailed since the charge was filed against them.
The murder charge against Smith was eventually dropped after the November 2022 grand jury returned a ‘no bill’ and she was released from jail. Four days later, she was rearrested on a new manslaughter charge, which is currently pending against her.
Police responded to the emergency room on July 15, 2022, to investigate a fatal overdose victim that Smith brought in.
According to the arrest affidavit, Smith drove Diaz to Jimenez’s home, where Jimenez sold them two pills appearing to be Percocet.
The affidavit said Smith swallowed one, and Diaz crushed and snorted the other and passed out.
Authorities said she drove to a house and said when she came out, he had stopped breathing, so Smith took him to the ER. The autopsy later indicated the cause of death as the toxic effects of fentanyl.
On August 26, 2022, officials with the WFPD and the Wichita County District Attorney’s Office addressed the presence of fentanyl in Wichita Falls. WFPD officials said over 50 arrests made in the first half of 2022 involved fentanyl, 15 of which resulted in the death of someone who ingested fentanyl.
Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie said the charge of felony murder does not require intent to kill, only someone in the course of committing a felony, like distributing fentanyl.
“I think juries in our communities will recognize this type of poison is an act dangerous to human life,” Gillespie said. “If you deal this, then you are engaging in acts that are clearly dangerous to human life, and then it causes the death of another.”
County officials said they will be reexamining the fentanyl-related overdose deaths that have occurred recently and bring charges against those who provided the deceased with the dangerous drug.
“We are going to bring all the tools to bear on these overdoses,” Gillespie said. “We are sick and tired of seeing these in the community and we want to send a message to the people who deal it… We are going to target you.”
This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates as more information becomes available. All individuals charged with a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.