Prosecutors have offered a clear description of Rebecca Grossman.

They allege that, impaired by alcohol and Valium, she recklessly sped her Mercedes through a residential neighborhood, chasing her former Dodger boyfriend before killing two young children in a crosswalk.

The question now is whether jurors will believe this portrayal of a killer or see something more nuanced in the tragic events of that night in Westlake Village three years ago.

Grossman’s defense has disputed many parts of the prosecution’s case, blaming her then-boyfriend and insisting that she had no intention of hurting anyone and was deeply sorry for the children’s deaths.

The jury is asked to determine whether Grossman is guilty of two counts of murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and one count of hit and run resulting in death. If she is convicted of all charges, she faces 34 years to life in prison.

To secure a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must show that Grossman acted with implied malice and knew that the act of speeding in a residential area was dangerous to human life.

But the jury could also agree on lesser charges, resulting in a significantly lighter sentence. Jurors may consider vehicular manslaughter with common negligence if they acquit her of charges involving gross negligence. The lesser form of vehicular manslaughter can result in a year in jail.

Or they could, as Grossman’s lawyers have argued, find her innocent.

Louis Shapiro, a Los Angeles defense attorney not associated with the case, said the defense has an uphill battle, but, he noted, the severity of the charges brought by prosecutors is also a potential barrier to a conviction.

A woman is with her daughter.

Rebecca Grossman, left, with her daughter.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

“Some jurors may find it difficult to return a murder conviction simply due to the fact that this is not the typical scenario in which one would expect murder charges to be filed,” Shapiro said. “They may feel that a conviction for involuntary manslaughter is more appropriate, and such disagreement between jurors could result in a hung jury.”

Jurors were presented with two very different versions of the Hidden Hills woman and the Sept. 29, 2020, incident that took the lives of Mark and Jacob Iskander, ages 11 and 8, respectively.

“This was not a tragic accident,” the district deputy said. Lawyer. Jamie Castro said in closing arguments Wednesday. “This was murder.”

But Grossman’s lead attorney, Tony Buzbee, launched his closing statement with words he had repeated throughout the six-week trial: “Where is Scott Erickson?”

Prosecutors allege that Grossman, 60, had cocktails with Erickson, a former Dodger pitcher, and then raced with him (he in his black Mercedes sport utility vehicle and she in her white Mercedes SUV) along Triunfo Canyon. Road until she reached a crosswalk, where she fatally struck the Iskander brothers.

Grossman, Castro said, showed a conscious disregard for human life and knew his speed could be dangerous on a suburban street with pedestrian traffic because police had warned him of the dangers in the past. Prosecutors have also alleged that Grossman traveled a third of a mile after crashing into the children before safety features in his car automatically shut it off.

“He had a history of speeding. She had texted me about it,” Castro said. “She acted without regard for human life.”

But Buzbee continued to point his finger at Erickson, who was the first to cross the crosswalk. Defense accident reconstruction experts have testified that Erickson’s Mercedes struck the children first, sending Mark over his vehicle and into the hood of Grossman’s vehicle.

Nancy Iskander and her husband Karim

Nancy Iskander and her husband Karim

(Mel Melcón/Los Angeles Times)

“If you have any doubt that the black car hit one of those kids, this case is over,” said Buzbee, who told jurors that Erickson allegedly lied to authorities about the vehicle he was driving. He said it was a 2007 Mercedes SUV, but defense experts testified, based on video a short distance from the collision, that it was a 2016 Mercedes AMG, which authorities never inspected.

Castro told the jury that, although Erickson was reckless, there was “not the slightest bit of evidence” that he hit Mark or his brother: “He almost hit them, but he didn’t hit them.”

It was around 7 pm on September 29, 2020, when Nancy Iskander and her three children approached the crosswalk. Using in-line skates, Iskander began crossing Triunfo Canyon Road at Saddle Mountain Drive. Her youngest son, Zachary, was next to her on her scooter; Mark, on a skateboard, and Jacob, who was also wearing inline skates, were also in the crosswalk.

“The mother did everything right,” Castro said. “Rebecca Grossman did everything wrong.”

Iskander previously testified that he heard engines revving and looked up to see a black pickup truck speeding toward the intersection. He moved out of the way and pulled Zachary to safety.

But she testified that a white Mercedes SUV was following the black vehicle closely. When she crossed the crosswalk, Iskander said, she heard an impact and her two oldest children were missing.

Jacob was found near the sidewalk about 50 feet from the crosswalk. He was taken to a hospital, where hours later he was pronounced dead. Mark’s body was found 254 feet away.

Grossman is accused of reaching 81 mph before braking slightly and hitting the brothers at 73 mph, according to the car’s data recorder and the distance Mark found from the crosswalk. But Buzbee called experts who testified that the data was unreliable and that Grossman was traveling 52 mph according to video captured seconds after the collision.

Even after the impact, Castro said, Grossman “continued driving as far as his car would allow him.”

The prosecutor rejected the defense theory that Erickson hit the brothers first, saying the frontal damage to Grossman’s vehicle was not “the result of a child landing on the hood.”

Castro reminded jurors that pathologist Matthew Miller, who performed the autopsy, testified that the children’s injuries were consistent with a single vehicle hitting them. Buzbee responded that Miller, in what he considered the strongest indication of reasonable doubt, acknowledged the “possibility” that they could have been hit by more than one car.

Buzbee focused on the flaws in the investigation and presented an image on the television monitor with a Los Angeles County sheriff’s badge and the words “buff hour.” He said investigators lost five of eight pieces of evidence from the crash scene and did not speak with Erickson. He said investigators ignored other cars in the surveillance video and focused on Grossman: “They had a totaled car and the blinders were on.”

“This is an accident,” Buzbee insisted, saying the medical examiner had called it such, and not a homicide.

Castro admitted there were shortcomings in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation: there was a lack of evidence and few photographs of the scene. But during the trial, a former California Highway Patrol officer turned accident expert was able to recreate the scene.

The deputy prosecutor also repudiated the testimony of Grossman’s daughter, Alexis, who told jurors Friday that she saw Erickson hiding behind a tree near where her mother was detained and then angrily stormed into her family’s Westlake home. Village. She said he smelled like alcohol and threatened to “ruin” her and her family if he told anyone she had seen him.

“Alexis is a victim of her mother’s manipulation,” Castro said, noting that an agent at the scene testified that he never saw Erickson and that no one there reported his presence.

Buzbee backed up the 19-year-old’s testimony, asking the jury: “Why did (Erickson) lie? Why did he make threats?

Castro emphasized eyewitness testimony in his closing argument. She reminded the jury that a witness, Susan Manners, testified that she saw Grossman’s vehicle hit Mark. Yasamin Eftekhari and Jake Sands, who were driving a car behind Grossman’s Mercedes, testified that they saw the white car hit Jacob. Eftekhari, Castro noted, testified that the black car never hit the children.

Shapiro on Thursday described the defense as energetic but potentially flawed.

“The defense argues that there is reasonable doubt about whether Grossman actually hit and killed the children,” he said. “The problem with that argument is that there were two witnesses who testified that Grossman’s car hit the children and that the location of the damage on Grossman’s car was in front of his car, which matches the vehicle that hit Grossman. children”.

But Lara Yeretsian, another Los Angeles defense attorney, said “putting another suspect to the sword can muddy the waters enough to get an acquittal or a hung jury.”

“Remember,” he said, “the prosecution has to establish causation beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence is not clear as to causality, then it is reasonable doubt.”

By Sam