WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Testimony began on Tuesday morning in Wichita County’s first trial of a defendant charged with murder related to fentanyl, a potentially ground-breaking and precedent-setting trial.
Background of ground-breaking Wichita County trial
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 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.
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.
After a jury was selected on Monday afternoon, September 25, 2023, testimony began on Tuesday, September 26, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. in the new home of the 30th District Court, with Judge McKnight presiding.
Representing the state of Texas in this trial is Matt Shelton, Wichita County Assistant Criminal District Attorney, who is being aided by Dobie Kosub, Wichita County’s First Assistant District Attorney. Defense attorney Michael Valverde is representing Jimenez.
Opening statements from prosecution, defense
When proceedings began on Tuesday morning, the amended indictment charging Jimenez with murder was read, stating that while Jimenez was in the course of committing and/or attempting to commit the felony of delivering fentanyl, he committed an act dangerous to human life that caused the death of Diaz.
Opening arguments then got underway with Shelton on behalf of the prosecution, who spoke to the jury and laid out some of the evidence and testimony the state intends to introduce over the course of this trial.
Shelton told the jury that Jimenez was guilty by definition because he knew he was dealing with fentanyl, and he knew the drug was dangerous to human life.
Following Shelton’s opening statements, Valverde then spoke to the jury, arguing that Jimenez shouldn’t be facing a murder charge since the defendant was not “in the course of committing” the felony drug offense when Diaz died.
Valverde said that the felony had already been committed and Jimenez had no other role other than selling the pills. He then asked the jury to find Jimenez guilty of the felony drug offense, but not of murder.
State calls first witness, former co-defendant of Jimenez
Judge McKnight instructed Shelton that he may call the state’s first witness. Shelton then called Leigha Smith, 23, of Wichita Falls, to take the stand.
Smith and Jimenez 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, Smith was rearrested on a new manslaughter charge, which is currently pending against her.
Smith testified that she met Diaz during her freshman year of high school and that he was “one of the good ones.” She testified that she began using drugs when she was 16 years old.
Smith testified she had communicated with Jimenez via Facebook Messenger to arrange the drug buy in the early morning hours of July 15, 2022. She testified that Diaz never left the car when buying the drugs and that the two didn’t even speak when the drugs were purchased.
Smith testified she bought two Percocet pills from Jimenez as well as some marijuana. She testified she spent $80 in total, $30 for each Percocet pill and $20 for the marijuana, and that Diaz gave her $40, essentially paying for half of the drug purchase.
Smith then testified that she took one of the Percocet pills, while Diaz crushed the other pill and snorted it using a rolled-up $1 bill. She testified that after they both had ingested the Percocet, they then smoked the marijuana.
Smith testified she then drove around with Diaz in the car, going from Eastside, where Diaz lived, to the country club area, where Smith’s apartment was located. She testified that Diaz had fallen asleep in the passenger’s seat while they were listening to music and that Diaz was snoring. She testified she then drove to her grandmother’s house and watched about 30 minutes of a movie.
According to Smith’s testimony, she had attempted to wake Diaz up, but he wouldn’t wake up, which wasn’t uncommon to her. She testified that after she watched part of the movie at her grandmother’s house, she went back out to her car, where she believed Diaz was still sleeping.
Smith began to tear up as she testified that she couldn’t hear Diaz snoring anymore and that he still wouldn’t wake up. She testified through tears that she ran inside and got a family member, who told her they couldn’t hear Diaz’s heartbeat.
Smith testified she then drove Diaz to the hospital with a family member following her. She testified that she told hospital personnel that Diaz was unconscious and they took him back; then the police showed up and she told them what happened.
Later, Smith would testify that despite her history of drug use, she was not under the influence during her testimony and that she and Diaz had only ingested the drugs purchased from Jimenez on the morning of Diaz’s death.
Before passing the witness to the defense for cross-examination, Shelton asked Smith if she had any deal or arrangement in place for giving her testimony during Jimenez’s trial. Smith testified she did not.
Defense for Jimenez cross-examines Leigha Smith
Immediately after Smith was passed to the defense by Shelton, Valverde began to question Smith on her previous murder charge that was eventually dropped. “How’d you work that out?” Valverde asked Smith regarding her now pending manslaughter charge related to the death of Diaz.
Smith later testified that she was high when she spoke to police and that she wasn’t aware that Percocet pills could be laced with fentanyl.
“Ms. Smith, someone died in this,” Valverde said in response to Smith’s apparent lack of awareness of fentanyl. Valverde continued to press Smith, asking if she was taking the trial seriously after answering several questions with, “I don’t know.” He also asked Smith if she was only worried about her pending manslaughter charge.
Smith would later testify that after purchasing the drugs from Jimenez, he went back into his house, and she didn’t see him again that night; they didn’t interact again, and Diaz and Jimenez never spoke during the exchange.
Testimony is set to resume on Wednesday
After the jury was dismissed for their lunch break and the court was dismissed into recess until 1 p.m., Judge McKnight announced the trial would be moving into the 78th District Courtroom due to technical difficulties in the newly completed courtroom they had been in for proceedings up until that point.
Judge McKnight said he wasn’t sure if the trial would be moved back into the new 30th District Courtroom.
Testimony is set to resume on Wednesday morning, September 27, 2023, with the prosecution expected to call more witnesses to the stand. Shelton said during Tuesday’s proceedings that he intends to call a toxicologist to help explain the effects of Percocet and fentanyl. Several members of the Wichita Falls Police Department are also expected to take the stand over the coming days.
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.