CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — More than a dozen legal, law enforcement and victims’ rights organizations told a New Hampshire court Monday that a murder victim’s sexual past should remain out of the public eye.
Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott, of Westborough, Massachusetts, was a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire when she was killed in 2012. Seth Mazzaglia was convicted of her murder and sentenced to life, but he is pursuing an appeal.
In June, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that information about Marriott’s sexual activity that had been sealed during the trial should be made public during the appeals process, prompting objections from prosecutors and Marriott’s family. On Monday, the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and 12 other groups filed a brief supporting the family’s request to keep the records sealed, and Mazzaglia’s attorney argued that the court should not conduct the appellate process behind closed doors and on the basis of a secret record.
Lyn Schollett, the coalition’s executive director, said the June ruling jeopardizes every crime victim’s right to privacy. In the court filing, her organization and others argue that the state’s rape shield law applies through the entire criminal process, including any appeals.
“Otherwise, the purpose of rape shield would be completely eviscerated,” wrote the group, which includes the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, The National Center for Victims of Crime and Aequitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women. “Rape victims are entitled to rely on the protective provisions of the rape shield statute and rule. To hold otherwise would defeat the purpose of the rape shield protections, discourage victims from coming forward and have a terrible impact on the state’s ability to prosecute sexual assault crimes.”
During his trial, Mazzaglia denied raping and killing Marriott but said he helped cover up the murder. His girlfriend at the time testified that she lured Marriott to Mazzaglia’s apartment as a sexual offering and that Mazzaglia strangled Marriott when she refused his advances.
In his brief, appellate defender Christopher Johnson said neither state law nor rules of evidence regarding prior sexual activity apply on appeal because the state Supreme Court does not hear witnesses or receive new evidence. He also said concerns about the victim’s privacy do not outweigh the right of public access to the documents and proceedings on which the court will decide the appeal.
Oral arguments before the state Supreme Court are set for Sept. 21.