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Defense rests without calling Rebecca Grossman in trial for deadly Westlake Village crash – Daily News

By TERRI VERMEULEN KEITH

VAN NUYS — The defense rested its portion of the case Tuesday without calling Rebecca Grossman to the stand in her own defense on murder and other charges stemming from a crash that killed two young brothers in Westlake Village in 2020.

During a hearing outside the jury’s presence, Grossman — co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation — told Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino that she understood she had a right to testify or not to testify.

After the defense rested, the prosecution called two brief rebuttal witnesses Tuesday morning, with a final rebuttal witness expected in the afternoon.

Jurors are expected to be instructed to return to the Van Nuys courtroom Wednesday for jury instructions. It has not yet been determined whether closing arguments will begin Wednesday or Thursday.

Grossman is charged with two counts each of murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one felony count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death in connection with the crash that left 11-year-old Mark Iskander and his 8-year-old brother, Jacob, dead. The boys were allegedly hit by Grossman’s speeding white Mercedes-Benz SUV as they crossed a Westlake Village street with their family in September 2020.

Mark and Jacob Iskander, 11 and 8, were with their family Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, when they were struck and killed in Westlake Village by a Mercedes driven by Rebecca Grossman, the chairwoman of the Grossman Burn Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church)
Mark and Jacob Iskander, 11 and 8, were with their family Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, when they were struck and killed in Westlake Village by a Mercedes driven by Rebecca Grossman, the chairwoman of the Grossman Burn Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church)

The prosecution alleges that Grossman was speeding at the time she hit the boys in the crosswalk, with Deputy District Attorney Ryan Gould telling jurors that Grossman was “flooring it” to get herself up to 81 mph on a 45-mph street and driving just over 70 mph at the time of impact. The older boy died at the scene, and his sibling died at a hospital.

The prosecutor told jurors that Grossman wouldn’t have hit the boys if she had been driving at the speed limit, and said she “doesn’t stop for over a third of a mile away.”

A memorial is growing for Mark and Jacob Iskander who were killed after being struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk at the intersection of Triunfo Canyon Road and Saddle Mountain Drive in Westlake Village, CA. Rebecca Grossman, a co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter in connection with the crash and was released from jail Thursday morning.(photo by Andy Holzman)
A memorial is growing for Mark and Jacob Iskander who were killed after being struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk at the intersection of Triunfo Canyon Road and Saddle Mountain Drive in Westlake Village, CA. Rebecca Grossman, a co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter in connection with the crash and was released from jail Thursday morning.(photo by Andy Holzman)

Grossman’s attorneys insisted she was not the driver responsible for the deadly crash, which they contend occurred outside a crosswalk.

Lead defense attorney Tony Buzbee — who contends that Grossman was driving 52 mph “at best” — pointed the blame at former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson, whom he alleges was driving a black Mercedes SUV just ahead of Grossman’s vehicle.

Erickson was described by the prosecutor as Grossman’s boyfriend at the time.

Dr. Justin Schorr, a collision reconstruction engineer who was called to the stand by the defense, told jurors that the “lack of physical evidence (in the case) leaves a lot of room for ambiguity.”

Schorr testified that there was “no way” to be certain if two vehicles struck the two boys, or one vehicle struck them.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Rafael Mejia testified during the prosecution’s case that he didn’t find any debris consistent with a black SUV or any kind of black vehicle.

“We didn’t see any indicators there was another vehicle,” Mejia said, indicating that the debris at the scene indicated a white vehicle had been involved.

The deputy said he had considered the possibility that more than one vehicle was involved in the collision with the boys but ruled it out, saying that all of the debris was “consistent with a white vehicle.” He said he believed the crash was caused by the vehicle “traveling at an unsafe speed,” and added that he stands by that conclusion.

Former major-league pitcher Scott Erickson was charged with reckless driving for his role in a crash in Westlake Village that killed two boys crossing a street on Sept. 29, 2020. Authorities say Erickson was racing Rebecca Grossman, who police say struck the boys. Erickson pitched for the Dodgers in 2005.  (Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Former major-league pitcher Scott Erickson was charged with reckless driving for his role in a crash in Westlake Village that killed two boys crossing a street on Sept. 29, 2020. Authorities say Erickson was racing Rebecca Grossman, who police say struck the boys. Erickson pitched for the Dodgers in 2005. (Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Mejia said he found Grossman about three-tenths of a mile away standing outside her SUV, which had front-end damage.

“She told me that her vehicle was disabled by Mercedes-Benz,” Mejia told jurors, saying that the airbags had gone off and that Grossman told him that she had hit something but she didn’t know what she struck.

Of his interaction with Grossman, the deputy said, “She kept telling me to call her husband. … Her husband could help those kids.”

While Grossman was not called to the stand, jurors heard testimony from her 19-year-old daughter, Alexis, and the defendant’s husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, during the defense’s phase of the case.

Alexis Grossman testified that Erickson confronted her shortly after the collision and threatened to “ruin you and your family” if she spoke of seeing him that night.

The young woman testified that she spotted Erickson hiding behind a tree near the scene of the crash as her mother was being questioned by investigators, and said Erickson burst into her house soon afterward, angrily shouting, “Why did your mom stop? Why did your mom stop? … Why didn’t she just drive home?”

“His face was red (and) I could smell alcohol on him,” Alexis Grossman said. “He was freaking out. I was scared that he might do something to hurt me or my family.”

The defendant’s husband, who is the director of the Grossman Burn Centers, told jurors that he had been in a vehicle hundreds of times with his wife when she was behind the wheel, but that he didn’t recall whether she drove over the speed limit.

A memorial is growing for Mark and Jacob Iskander who were killed after being struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk at the intersection of Triunfo Canyon Road and Saddle Mountain Drive in Westlake Village, CA. Rebecca Grossman, a co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter in connection with the crash and was released from jail Thursday morning. (photo by Andy Holzman)
A memorial is growing for Mark and Jacob Iskander who were killed after being struck by a vehicle in a crosswalk at the intersection of Triunfo Canyon Road and Saddle Mountain Drive in Westlake Village, CA. Rebecca Grossman, a co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter in connection with the crash and was released from jail Thursday morning. (photo by Andy Holzman)

Peter Grossman said he learned from their daughter about the deadly crash, testifying that his wife was “almost inconsolable, crying, trembling, incredibly emotional” when he picked her up at a jail in Lynwood about 30 hours after the crash.

He said he subsequently took photos of bruising and contusions to her body the following morning when she complained of pain.

The doctor described his wife — whom he married in 2000 — as “the engine” that makes the Grossman Burn Foundation work, but said the two had begun dating others after deciding to separate.

Grossman is free on $2 million bond. She could face up to 34 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged.

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