Jury deliberations continue for King murder trial
Published - 01/19/18 - 08:46 AM | 3286 views | 0 0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jury deliberations will resume Monday, Jan. 22 in the murder trial of Jason Riley King who is charged with driving while intoxicated and killing two UC San Diego medical students after King's truck struck their vehicle head-on in 2015. 

The nine-man, three-woman jury discussed the case for about an hour Thursday after hearing closing arguments and jury instructions from San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber. They have Friday off.

King, now 24 and a former U.S. Marine, is charged with causing the deaths of Anne Baldock, 24, and Madison Cornwell, 23, on May 15, 2015, at 1:40 a.m. on state Route 163 north of Interstate 8.

Baldock is from La Jolla and Cornwell is from Mission Viejo. Another UCSD student, Yuki Iizuka, is from La Jolla and was in a medically induced coma for a month. He and two other UCSD students, Stosh Ozog and Jared Molitoris, were seriously injured, but all three have resumed their studies.

King's attorney, Richard Hutton, told jurors the prosecution proved most of the charges but maintained King did not commit murder while he was driving while intoxicated. He told jurors to go ahead and convict King of two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and drunk driving with injuries to the other three students.

"This case has been a stretch since Day One," said Hutton. "It's not a murder. He's not guilty of murder, but he's guilty of the rest."

Hutton told jurors King is from a small town in Oklahoma, is not familiar with freeways, and has no prior record for drunk driving. 

Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright said King learned of the dangers of drinking and driving from a class in the Marine Corps in which 500 Marines attended. Some of the Marines who were in the class testified, as did an instructor.

"He knew the dangers of drinking and driving. He chose to do it anyway," said Bright. "He remembered people telling him not to drive."

Bright said King refused to listen to several Marines he partied with that night at a Mission Beach hotel and a friend at a Mission Valley bar. She said the friend described him as leaning on a pool cue and had trouble balancing himself.

The prosecutor said the impact killed both women instantly.

She recounted testimony from a deputy medical examiner who said both women died from blunt force trauma with multiple skull fractures. 

Bright said King rejected offers to stay at the hotel or leave his truck behind. She said a female friend begged him to give her the truck's keys. 

Hutton told jurors King was "100% cooperative with police" and was "honest" when he admitted to being drunk. He told jurors alcohol affects judgment and slows down information processing.

"Do you think he deliberately drove the wrong way?" asked Hutton, who said King driving the wrong way on 163 was "a mistake because he had too much to drink."

Hutton said King's speed was estimated between 43-56 mph at the time of the collision. He said King drove with his hazard lights blinking and drove part of the way on the center median shoulder until it narrowed.

"Convict him of what he did," concluded Hutton to the jury.

In rebuttal, Bright asked jurors to consider why did King drive with his hazard lights on if he didn't know it was dangerous. She urged jurors to do their "solemn duty" by convicting him of all counts.

The trial began Jan. 3 with jury selection and testimony began Jan. 9. His blood/alcohol level was .14, which is close to twice the legal limit. A California Highway Patrol officer testified Jan. 10 that King told him "he had been drinking quite a bit."

King's pickup turned over and the windshield had to be cut out by paramedics to rescue King, who suffered neck fractures. King did not testify and his mother was one of two defense witnesses.

If he's convicted of two murders, he faces a prison term of at least 30 years to life. If the jury acquits him of murder but convicts him of two counts of vehicular manslaughter, he could get 15 years in prison.

The family members of both women and others attended the trial daily as did King's family. King remains in jail on $3 million bail.
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