SAN DIEGO -- A former Miramar-based Marine who allegedly drove drunk and caused a head-on freeway crash that killed two UCSD medical students should be convicted of murder because he knew the dangers of drinking and driving but chose to get behind the wheel after a night of partying, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
An attorney for Jason Riley King, countered that his 24-year-old client had only gone to one presentation at Miramar in which a police officer spoke to 300 to 500 Marines on the dangers of drinking and driving. He said King was overcharged, but is guilty of gross vehicular manslaughter and DUI causing injury.
"That's it in this case," defense attorney Rich Hutton told the jury. "This simply is not a murder case."
In her opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said King had attended the "stand-down" drinking and driving presentation at Miramar just eight days before the May 16, 2015, collision that killed 23-year-old Madison Cornwell and 24-year-old Anne Li Baldock and seriously injured three others.
"He (King) was warned of the consequences of driving impaired but he chose to do it anyway," the prosecutor 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 Toyota 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.
The prosecutor said King started his day by drinking several beers with friends at a Mission Beach hotel. The friends tried to get King to stay the night, but the defendant took off and met a female Marine friend at a country-western bar about 11:30 p.m.
The friend, Hannah Talbott, told police that King wreaked of alcohol, but she didn't notice it until a couple of hours later when they were playing pool.
A manager noticed King slumped over a rail and the defendant was kicked out of the bar, Bright said.
King and Talbott got into an argument outside and she told him that he was in no condition to drive but after 25 minutes he took off, telling the bar manager "I'm good," according to the prosecutor.
Minutes later, King drove his truck the wrong way on the freeway, slamming into the Prius and ripping off its entire left side, Bright told the jury.
King's blood-alcohol content was measured at .14 percent at a hospital where he was taken for treatment of his injuries. Experts believe the defendant's blood-alcohol content was .16-.17 percent at the time of the crash, twice the legal limit, the prosecutor said.
King faces 30 years to life in prison plus 14 years if convicted.