A U.S. Marine accused of driving while intoxicated and killing two UC San Diego students will stand trial for murder after a judge refused a motion to dismiss charges Wednesday.
Jason Riley King faces multiple charges in the May 16, 2015 crash that killed UC San Diego medical students Anne Li Baldock, 24, and Madison Elizabeth Cornwell, 23.
King had a blood alcohol content of 0.14 when he drove the wrong way onto State Route 163 and collided head-on into a Toyota Prius, prosecutors said.
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Baldock, whose family is from Seattle, was living in an apartment near campus while in her second year at UCSD Medical School. Cornwell, another second-year medical student, was from Mission Viejo. Three other students were injured in the crash.
King was driving against traffic in a white pickup truck and was flashing his hazard lights before the crash, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Prosecutors said security escorted King out of a Mission Valley bar. Witnesses testified the defendant was warned several times not to drive before he got behind the wheel.
They also said the Marine completed two military-sponsored courses against the dangers of drinking.
King has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while impaired, DUI causing injury with three great bodily injury allegations, driving with blood alcohol in excess of .08 causing injury with the allegations.
On Wednesday, King's defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss charges, arguing a murder charge was too severe. He argued that the prosecution based the murder charge on the fact that King underwent training on the dangers of drinking and driving as a Marine and because King was warned multiple times not to drive after he had been drinking at the bar.
One of the courses took place just two weeks before the crash.
"If this is murder, a whole lot of us are guilty of attempted murder," he said explaining his theory anyone who has taken a safety course about drinking and driving could be held up to a murder or attempted murder charge. "I don't think that is what the legislature intended."
Judge Joan Weber agreed in part with the defense but said this case was a close call.
“I do think that to extend this to any time anyone’s had any sort of class on DUIs that we are in a very dangerous situation,” said Judge Joan Weber. “I do not think that is what the law intended.”
Jurors must be informed about the requisite knowledge King would need to have had on that night he got into the truck.
Weber set a trial date for March 20. If convicted, King faces 47 years to life.