Court upholds teen rape and murder victim's privacy rights

FILE - In this June 17, 2014 photo, Seth Mazzaglia gets ready to leave the courtroom during his first-degree murder trial in Strafford County Superior Court in Dover, N.H. The New Hampshire Supreme Court decided that the details of Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott's sexual history should remain private after her rape and murder. Mazzaglia was convicted of the murder and is serving a life sentence, but argued the trial court should’ve allowed him to introduce evidence about Marriott's past. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

CONCORD, N.H. - The New Hampshire Supreme Court on Thursday decided that the details of a young woman's sexual history should remain private after her rape and murder.

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 murder and is serving a life sentence, but argued the trial court should've allowed him to introduce evidence about Marriott's past.

In June, the state Supreme Court ruled information about Marriott's sexual activity that was sealed during the trial should be made public during the appeals process. Prosecutors and Marriott's family objected.

The court issued its new ruling Thursday after lawyers argued the issue last week.

At issue was whether the state's rape shield law, which is intended to protect rape victims from having their personal information revealed during criminal proceedings, applies to both trials and appeals. Every state has such laws.

"We are pleased that the court upheld the well-established right of rape victims to not have their prior sexual history used against them. This is a victory for not just the Marriott's but for all victims of sexual assault." said Amanda Grady Sexton of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Mazzaglia's attorney, Christopher Johnson, had argued the court shouldn't conduct the appellate process behind closed doors. He noted the order said arguments on his client's appeal would be public, and there were no restrictions on them.

Prosecutors had asked the appeal arguments to be closed, then released a transcript later with private information blacked out.


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