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Maharaj v. State

Florida Court of Appeal, Fourth District

January 18, 2012

Parmanand MAHARAJ, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Florida, Appellee.

Page 64

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 65

Barbara J. Scheffer, Palm Beach Gardens, for appellant.

Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Georgina Jimenez-Orosa, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

GERBER, J.

The defendant appeals his convictions for sexual battery on a person less than twelve years of age, lewd and lascivious molestation, and providing obscene material to a minor. He raises several arguments, three of which have merit: (1) the trial court erred in not finding that the state opened the door to certain cross-examination questions; (2) the trial court erred in not allowing impeachment of the child's testimony; and (3) the trial court erred in overruling his objection to a portion of the state's closing argument. We address these three arguments in turn.

Opening the Door

The child's mother read statements in the child's notebook which prompted the mother to contact the police about the defendant. During the state's case-in-chief, the state played for the jury an audiotape containing a series of controlled calls between the mother and the defendant involving the notebook. On the first call, the mother told the defendant: " I found a notebook and I just want to make sure, I don't think these are true some of the stuff I was reading, and maybe she doesn't have the story right." The defendant told the mother he would call her back.

On a later call, the mother again referred to the notebook, prompting the following exchange:

Mother: ... [A]m I reading too much into this? ... This is what I think happened. [The child] walked into your house [and] you were watching porn, maybe you're a little embarrassed, I don't care but I'm going to be [angry] at her for walking into your house when— I think [the child] walked right into your house and [you] were watching [a] porno movie and you were embarrassed, and that's what I think exactly happened, but I want to hear from you exactly what happened. If that's the case, I know I raised [the child] better than that, is that what [the child] did, just walked right in your house?
Defendant: That's right.

Page 66

....
Mother: ... Then I know there was something else [the child] wrote about. She wrote about something too about kissing somebody, but I understand if that's the case that it happened, I'll punish [the child] for that, but the other thing she said something about kissing, I think all she did, all she was referring to ... is her and her friend was trying to outdo each other, I seen her hugging you and your wife, she likes you guys, I think that's ...

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