A Los Angeles socialite accused of fatally ploughing into two young boys in a crosswalk, was “racing” her lover, a former Los Angeles pitcher, who she had drinks with earlier that day, prosecutors have claimed as her trial got underway this week.
Jury selection in Rebecca Grossman’s trial began on Tuesday, but before testimony could even begin, her defence attorney is attempting to shift the blame for the boys’ tragic deaths to the ex-MLB player she was with, who also sped through the intersection seconds earlier, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Ms Grossman, 60, faces two counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Mark Iskander, 11, and his brother Jacob Iskander, eight, who were killed when she struck them with her Mercedes-Benz SUV as they walked in the marked crosswalk with their mother Nancy Iskander and five-year-old brother Zachary, on 29 September 2020.
Prosecutors say Ms Grossman had been drinking cocktails at a nearby establishment with Scott Erickson before engaging in a street race through a residential neighbourhood of Westlake Village, where she slammed into the two boys at a speed upwards of 70mph.
She had been driving behind Mr Erickson when the crash happened on Triunfo Canyon Road, according to testimony from Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators during a preliminary hearing in 2022.
But in court this week, defence attorney Tony Buzbee claimed the Los Angeles Sheriff’s investigators never checked Mr Erickson’s black Mercedes SUV for damage, even though witnesses claim they saw him drive through the marked crosswalk a few seconds before Ms Grossman.
Mr Buznee said Mr Erickson had produced the vehicle he was driving for examination in civil litigation after the deadly crash, but alleged that the investigator took his word in a phone interview that he was driving his 2007 Mercedes SUV at the time.
He then showed a photo of a 2016 Mercedes-AMG that Mr Erickson acquired in May 2019, alleging that it was the SUV he was driving that day.
“Why would law enforcement not look at this vehicle that he was driving that night?” Mr Buzbee asked. “Why wouldn’t they, especially when you had a witness, the first witness that provided a witness account, said there were two collisions three to five seconds apart? Why wouldn’t they go look at his vehicle?”
Jury selection in the trial began on Tuesday in the Van Nuys courtroom more than three years after the brothers’ deaths.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino, who is now overseeing the trial, ruled this week that the court will be allowed to prove to jurors that Ms Grossman was in the midst of a love affair with Mr Erickson at the time of the crash.
Ms Grossman, co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, is married to prominent surgeon Dr Peter Grossman.
At emotional pre-trial hearings in 2022, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Shellie Samuels determined the defence attorney’s argument that Ms Grossman was rushing home was not accurate.
“The defendant was not rushing to get home; she was playing a high-speed game of chicken with Mr Erickson,” Judge Samuels said, according to The Los Angeles Times. “I believe the defendant went well beyond gross negligence.”
The crux of the judge’s ruling for the socialite to stand trial for the murder of the two brothers came from detailed testimonies about the speed her car was travelling at in a residential area, where the posted limit was 45mph.
Data extracted from her Mercedes SUV revealed that she had hit 81mph just 1.5 seconds before the fatal crash.
Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Apodaca, a traffic crash specialist, provided testimony in the preliminary hearings to state that he calculated the socialite’s SUV to be travelling at 71.7mph when she first hit the boys, which was a slight adjustment from the 81mph speed she was allegedly tearing through the neighbourhood at before approaching the crosswalk.
The boys’ mother, Nancy Iskander, provided a harrowing account of what she witnessed during that fatal crash in the fall of 2020, during which she said the pair of SUVs “were zigzagging with each other as if they were playing or racing”.
“They didn’t stop before the intersection. They didn’t stop at the intersection. They didn’t stop when an 11-year-old was on the hood of the car … Nobody stopped,” she recounted in a tearful account at the time.
Ahead of this week’s trial, Ms Iskander posted a birthday tribute online to her son, Jacob. He would’ve been 12 years old.
“Happy Birthday in Heaven Jacob, I miss you, not a second has gone by without me wishing I am with you,” she wrote. “Jacob mattered, say his name today as he turns 12.”
Happy Birthday in Heaven Jacob, I miss you, not a second has gone by without me wishing I am with you. Jacob mattered, say his name today as he turns 12. pic.twitter.com/FigOjQIqop
— Nancy Iskander (@isknan) January 13, 2024
Ms Grossman is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death.
Mr Erickson, 55, was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving. In February 2022, a judge ordered him to make a public service announcement geared toward high school students about the importance of safe driving. Mr Erickson has denied any wrongdoing.