The nine-man, three-woman jury also convicted King, 24, of driving under the influence of alcohol and inflicting great bodily injuries to three UCSD students who survived the crash which killed Anne Baldock, 24, of La Jolla, and Madison Cornwell, 23, of Mission Viejo.
Jurors also found that King was driving with a .15 blood/alcohol level and driving the wrong way on state Route 163 when his truck smashed head-on into the Prius that Cornwell was driving around 1:20 a.m. not far from the Interstate 8 connection.
King faces a maximum sentence of 17 years and four months on the charges he was convicted of, said Deputy District Attorney Cally Bright. Had he been convicted of two second-degree murder charges, he would have faced 30 years to life.
The verdicts the jury reached matched what defense attorney Richard Hutton had asked them to do. He argued that murder "was a complete stretch," and urged them to "convict him of what he did."
The verdict was read by San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber in the new courthouse at 1100 Union Street. She set sentencing for April 6.
Jurors left the courtroom close to 4:30 p.m. and none of them could be reached for comment. Jurors asked no questions during their deliberations, which started Jan. 18. They had Friday off.
"I respect the jury's verdict," said Bright afterward. "It needed to go to a jury."
"This was a case that was 100% preventable. The impact of one person's decision to drink and drive basically changed the lives of five people and others," said Bright, who described Baldock and Cornwell as "bright lights" as both women wanted to become doctors.
King's parents and other family members were present for the verdict, and Hutton said his family members were "very happy he was acquitted of murder." The family members did not wish to comment, he said.
The victims' families were not present for the verdict. Testimony began Jan. 9 after several days of jury selection.
"I thought the jury did what was appropriate," said Hutton.
"My client is an amazing young man. He has admitted his responsibility," said Hutton. "He feels terrible for what he did. He wishes his actions could be taken back."
"I thought Cally Bright was very ethical. I think very highly of her," said Hutton.
King, a former Marine who was 21 years old at the time, did not testify. His mother and one other person testified last week in the brief defense that was presented. This case apparently ended his military career as attorneys described him as a former Marine.
Bright argued that King was drinking with other Marines at a party at a Mission Beach hotel on May 16, 2015. She argued that his attendance at a Marine class at Miramar about drinking and driving showed he was aware his actions were dangerous.
King had no record of drunk driving.
Yuki Iizuka, of La Jolla, was in a coma for three weeks after the crash and has resumed his studies at UCSD. Students Stosh Ozog and Jared Molitoris were also seriously injured, and are still at UCSD. All three testified about their survival.
Bright said if he gets a 17-year sentence, he would have to serve 85% or at least 15 years.
The DA's office has had limited success in prosecuting drunk driving fatalities as murders. An El Cajon jury convicted a drunk driver in 2017 of two counts of murder in the deaths of his passengers. A 47-year-old man with approximately eight convictions for drunk driving was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a Pacific Beach woman in 2009. Other juries have rejected murder charges and instead convicted drunk drivers of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
Hutton said after his client finishes prison, he wants to go back "and work on the family farm in Oklahoma." King suffered neck fractures from the crash and was originally arraigned in a hospital bed. He remains in jail on $3 million bail.