Fate of Marine charged with murder for fatal crash in hands of jury

SAN DIEGO -- A former Miramar-based Marine who allegedly drove drunk and caused a head-on freeway crash that killed two UCSD medical students knew the dangers of drinking and driving and should be convicted of murder, a prosecutor said Thursday, but a defense attorney said charging the defendant with murder was a "complete stretch.''

Jason Riley King, 24, is charged with murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI causing injury in the May 16, 2015, deaths of 23-year-old Madison Cornwell and 24-year-old Anne Li Baldock. Three others in Cornwell's car were seriously injured.

In her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said King was warned not to drink and drive but chose to do it anyway, acting with a conscious disregard for human life.

''He intended to drink that night,'' Bright told the jury. "He intended to drive.''

After getting kicked out of a country western bar, King told a female Marine friend who asked for his keys "I got myself here, I'll get myself home,'' Bright told the jury.

Eight days before the fatal crash, a police officer at an on-base "stand-down'' told King and hundreds of other Marines that if they drank and drove and hurt or killed someone they could go to jail, the prosecutor said.

Asked by CHP officers why he drank and got behind the wheel, King "remembered people telling him not to drive'' and did it "because I was ignorant,'' Bright told the jury.

Bright said the victims had just left a party in Hillcrest celebrating the completion of their second year in medical school when Cornwell's Prius was hit head-on by King's raised Ford F350 truck about 1:30 a.m. on northbound state Route 163 near Interstate 8.

An expert testified that King's blood-alcohol content was between .15 and .20 percent at the time of driving, according to the prosecutor.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Rich Hutton said King should be found guilty of some form of vehicular manslaughter and DUI causing injury, but not murder.

"This case has been a stretch from day one,'' Hutton said.

Hutton told jurors that what they learned about drinking and driving during the two weeks of trial was much more than King learned from the military.

"Anybody in this room not know the dangers of drinking and driving?'' the defense attorney asked. "They (the prosecution) want to up it to murder. They want to convict him because he was in the military.''

Jury deliberations began in the courtroom of Judge Joan Weber.

King faces 30 years to life plus 14 years in prison if convicted of all charges.