Judge denies Rebecca Grossman new trial bid after conviction in Westlake Village traffic deaths

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A judge Monday in Van Nuys rejected a defense bid for a new trial for Rebecca Grossman, who was convicted in February of second-degree murder for a crash that killed two young boys who were struck while walking with their family in Westlake Village.

Grossman’s new team of attorneys had asked Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino to grant Grossman a new trial on the pair of murder charges, contending that there are “at least five reasons” she is entitled to have the case heard by another jury.

The 60-year-old co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation was found guilty Feb. 23 of two counts each of second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one count of hit-and-run driving in connection with the Sept. 29, 2020, deaths of Mark and Jacob Iskander, aged 11 and 8.

She is facing up to 34 years to life in state prison, with sentencing set June 10.

Jurors deliberated for a total of about nine hours before rejecting then-defense attorney Tony Buzbee’s contention that Grossman’s then-boyfriend, former Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson, was driving a black Mercedes-Benz SUV that struck the boys first.

Prosecutors said the boys were crossing the street with their family in a marked crosswalk when they were hit by Grossman’s white Mercedes-Benz SUV and that she continued driving and eventually stopped about a quarter-mile away from the scene when her vehicle’s engine stopped running. Deputy District Attorney Ryan Gould told jurors in his closing argument that debris from the crash matched Grossman’s vehicle and that there was “not a shred” of evidence that Erickson struck the children.

The judge — who said Grossman had been convicted of “very serious crimes” — ordered her to be taken into custody shortly after the verdict was read, rejecting a request by one of her trial attorneys to allow her to remain free on $2 million bond while awaiting sentencing.

In their new trial motion, defense attorneys James Spertus, Samuel Josephs and Lara Gressley contended that “the evidence was insufficient to prove the required elements of second-degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The defense’s other contentions in the new trial motion included a claim that the judge erred by allowing jurors to hear about a 2013 speeding ticket Grossman received from a California Highway Patrol officer who testified that she told him that she hoped he never needed the services of the Grossman Burn Center.

The defense also wrote in its 52-page motion that the prosecution “did not offer … sufficient evidence of Ms. Grossman’s subjective knowledge that speeding on Triunfo Canyon Road would result in a fatal accident.”

In their opposition to the defense’s motion, Gould and fellow prosecutors Jamie Castro and Habib Balian wrote that the judge “clearly instructed the jury with all applicable and appropriate law” and that “the overwhelming direct and circumstantial evidence clearly demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty.”

The prosecutors noted that evidence presented during the trial indicated that Grossman “accelerated from 73 mph to speeds of 81 mph in a 45 mph zone just two seconds before the collision” and that she “drove with her accelerator pedal ‘floored,’ at essentially 100%, immediately preceding the collision” and struck the boys while traveling at 73 mph — the equivalent force of dropping her SUV on the boys from the height of a 12-story building.

Grossman subsequently failed to stop at the scene or provide any aid or assistance to the boys, according to the prosecutors.

The victims’ mother, Nancy Iskander, was in tears after the first guilty verdict was announced.

Speaking to reporters outside the Van Nuys courthouse in February, she said she bears no hatred for Grossman and said it was heartbreaking to see the defendant taken away in handcuffs.

She said she felt like she was attending her sons’ funeral every day she came to court for the trial.

“It (the trial) wasn’t easy, but it will bring me closure,” she said then.

Grossman’s husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, is medical director of the Grossman Burn Centers, with locations in West Hills, Bakersfield and Kansas City, Missouri. The original center was founded by his father, the late Dr. A. Richard Grossman, in 1969 at Sherman Oaks Hospital. The younger Grossman joined the practice in 1995.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.