Sep 29, 2016 6:24 PM
CONCORD - The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed its own decision today, ordering Lizzi Marriott's personal and sexual history to remain sealed.
Back in June, the Court decided information about her past be unsealed and made available to the public as part of Seth Mazzaglia's appeal.
In 2014, Mazzaglia was convicted of first-degree murder for Marriott's death in 2012. Prosecutors said Mazzaglia had his girlfriend, Kathryn McDonough, lured Marriott to their apartment. Marriott was raped and strangled, and her body was never recovered.
Marriott's family objected to the Court's ruling her history be released, and the Court heard oral arguments from both sides on the issue last week.
During the hearing, Mazzaglia's defense argued Marriott's past is relevant to the conviction's appeal.
"They certainly have no obligation to publish it, nobody is saying that," said defense attorney Christopher Johnson. "It’s just it should be accessible. That’s the point. Nobody has to broadcast it from the rooftops."
However, by reversing its decision, the Court ruled to uphold privacy rights and rape shield laws. The decision was well-received by both victims' rights advocates and local politicians.
"It's a real victory for the Marriott family," said Lyn Schollett, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. "It was hard to tell at the end of the hearing what was going to happen, but we believe that we marshalled the advocacy necessary to impress upon the Supreme Court how important it was to protect this victim's privacy."
Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Kelly Ayotte both released statements today, also supporting the decision.
"By upholding the intent and spirit of New Hampshire’s rape shield law, the Supreme Court avoided a precedent that would have had a potentially devastating impact on victims and their families," Hassan wrote in part. "My heart continues to go out to the Marriott family, who has endured a loss beyond comprehension, as they continue to pursue justice for Lizzi.”
Ayotte, a former prosecutor and Attorney General, shared a similar sentiment.
"The New Hampshire Supreme Court made the right decision today to protect Lizzi Marriott’s privacy by keeping the records at issue from her trial sealed during the appeals process, and I hope this step can bring some small solace to Lizzi’s family as they continue to mourn and remember their daughter," she wrote.
Schollett added the ruling, had it gone the other way, could've had an impact on rape shield laws and the victims they protect across the entire country.
"We were very concerned that if the court had not upheld Lizzi’s right to privacy, that other victims would’ve been discouraged from reporting, and maybe made the decision not to engage in the criminal justice system," she said.
Schollett also drew parallels between the cases for Marriott and Chessy Prout, Owen LaBrie's vicitm in a sexual assault case at St. Paul's School, who revealed her identity to the public last month.
"What's interesting about both the St. Paul's case and the Mazzaglia case, is they impact victims' privacy," Schollett said. "What's most significant, is in both of these cases, victims or their families have been allowed to make the choices they want to make about their own privacy."
A trial date for Mazzaglia has not yet been set, as the appeals process is ongoing.
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