Ex-marine Jason Riley King was sentenced to seventeen years in state prison nearly two years after he killed two UC San Diego medical students in a head-on DUI crash in May 2015.
On May 16, 2015, five medical students were in a Prius heading home at 1:30 a.m. when King’s Ford F-350 truck collided into the victims’ vehicle on the opposite side of the road of State Route 163 near Mission Valley. Due to the crash, the Prius’s owner Madison Cornwell and passenger Anne Li Baldock were killed.
“Two young women who we should be calling ‘doctor’ are gone,” Superior Court Judge Joan Weber said.
The women’s classmates, Jared Molitoris, Yuki Iizuka, and Stosh Ozog, who were also passengers in the car, suffered from injuries. Iizuka spent three weeks in a coma due to a brain injury, and according to his mother Maki Iizuka, now suffers from memory loss.
In January of 2018, King was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter. According to a previous article from the UCSD Guardian, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office confirmed that his maximum sentence would be seventeen years under his manslaughter charges. However, “King would have faced 30 years to life, should he have been convicted of murder.”
King’s defense attorney and DUI lawyer Rich Hutton claimed that his client “would have [pleaded] guilty a long time ago if the prosecution had not charged him with murder. Jason King has always taken full responsibility for what he did.” He described King as one of his most remorseful clients. “He prays for the victims and their families on a daily basis.”
“There will never be a day that I don’t hate myself,” King reportedly said in court.
San Diego Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright argued that King was kicked out of a bar the night of the collision. Although his friend had warned him not to drive while intoxicated, King did so anyway with a blood alcohol content between 0.15 and 0.20 percent. The legal BAC limit in all fifty states is 0.08 percent.
The death of the two medical students inspired several of their classmates to pursue lobbying Assembly Bill 1221, or the Responsible Beverage Service Training Program Act of 2017, a bill that is meant to potentially prevent such DUI crashes from occurring.
A training program that was once voluntary would now be a required four-hour training course for alcohol servers on how to identify and react to a customer who they believe has had too much to drink. The course would be retaken every three years.
Assembly Bill 1221 “would provide that [a Responsible Beverage Serving] training course include information on, among other things, state laws and regulations relating to alcoholic beverage control and the impact of alcohol on the body.”
After two years of lobbying and being vetoed by Jerry Brown once in 2016 for technical purposes, the bill was approved on Oct. 15, 2017 and will go into effect July 2021.
UCSD medical students Nicole Herrick and Daniel Spinosa were part of the team that lobbied the bill. They were working with Dr. Robert Hertzka, a professor of the UCSD Medical School who has been teaching health policy courses for over 30 years.
Determined to “make California roads safer,” Herrick and Spinosa began working in 2015 with the California Medical Association, representatives from the California Highway Patrol, and several state representatives, one of them being San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher.
“If it wasn’t for the support and guidance from her and her wonderful staff, AB 1221 would have been little more than a good idea,” Herrick told the Guardian.
However, Herrick admits that their discussion with representatives did not immediately lead to their idea of the training program.
“Our first idea, which will hopefully one day become a reality, was to lower the legal driving [BAC] to 0.05. Many other countries are 0.05 or 0.03!”
Dr. Hertzka notes that it is a “great feeling of how [his students] come up with something meaningful out of tragedy.”