Published January 23, 2024

In September 2020, Rebecca Grossman was in a fatal traffic accident in Westlake Village in which two young boys were killed. It was a horrible tragedy that devastated the community.  The trial begins next week. 

Rebecca Grossman has been charged with manslaughter and murder (the District Attorney is relying on a California statute that is typically applied to repeat DUI offenders to justify the murder charges).  She has pled not guilty, and never wavered in professing her innocence.

The amount of online commentary about this case is staggering, and it is 100% unfavorable to the defense.  If you get your news from X (formerly Twitter) or Nextdoor, this must seem like an open and shut case, but this trial will take place in a Van Nuys courtroom, not online.

The prosecution will have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and that could be difficult.

The fact pattern in this case that seemed so clear-cut three years ago, has steadily unraveled as evidence has been presented at numerous pretrial hearings.

Initially the incident was sold to the public as a DUI hit and run that involved street racing in a quiet neighborhood.  To put it mildly, those accusations have not aged well.

First, Grossman’s toxicology test showed that her blood alcohol level was under the legal limit. She has never had a DUI, and is not charged with DUI in this case.  Securing a murder conviction under a statute designed to punish chronic DUI offenders will require some next-level trial maneuvering by prosecutors.

Second, Grossman called 911 and cooperated with police officers at the scene.  Prosecutors will argue that she did not pull over immediately, but what driver trying to flee the scene calls 911 and reports the accident herself? Those are not easy dots for a juror to connect.

Third, allegations of street racing have been debunked in open court.  The prosecutor, himself, said on the record in a related civil case that he saw no evidence of street racing prior to the accident.  Also, the defense surely will point out that the road is a four-lane thoroughfare where vehicles routinely traveled at highway speeds.

In addition to these foundational challenges, a number of other obstacles could stand in the way of a win for the prosecution.

Defense lawyers claim they have evidence that points to another, unidentified vehicle that was involved in the accident, and that the victims were not in the crosswalk as the prosecution claims.

Potentially exculpatory footage from security cameras near the accident site was never properly investigated and now is suspiciously “missing” or “deleted.”

In a since-withdrawn (but still publicly available) lawsuit against the City of Westlake Village, the victims’ family blamed the crash on dangerous street conditions at the intersection.

And finally, there remains the admittedly uncomfortable– but regrettably necessary– question about why two young children—dressed in dark clothing and wobbling on a skateboard and rollerblades—were in the street, unsupervised.

Prosecutors will have to dig deep into their bag of tricks to finesse these inconvenient facts.

Furthermore, it remains to be seen how much of an appetite the judge will have for the kind of sensational gossip that has propelled this case like rocket fuel on social media.  If prosecutors are not allowed to distract jurors with innuendoes about money, power, and sex, look for them to overwhelm the jury with minutiae served up by an army of expert witnesses—which also could add to the prosecution’s burden.

The lawyers in this case disagree about literally everything. Every fact, allegation, and interpretation is a jump ball at this point.  However, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution, and with the facts as they have become known, it is difficult to see how any of the charges against Rebecca Grossman can meet the standard for criminal conviction. Even a sliver of reasonable doubt by jurors tilts this case to the defense.

Once this trial gets underway, the courtroom narrative will conflict starkly with the accepted public narrative.  When all is said and done, there is a very real chance that the jury will see this as an accident with many different causes and contributing factors—not a crime.

CDN Newswire