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Judge says no to releasing Marriott court documents

DOVER - District Court Justice Stephen Morrison has denied a motion to make public the court documents in the second-degree murder case pending against Seth J. Mazzaglia, 29.

Mazzaglia is alleged to have strangled and/or suffocated University of New Hampshire sophomore Lizzi Marriott, 19, in his apartment the night of Oct. 9. The search for Marriott's body has been ongoing in Portsmouth since Oct. 12.

Police announced Mazzaglia's arrest on Oct. 13 and he was arraigned on the charge in Dover District Court on Oct. 15. At that time the state asked that any arrest and/or search warrants and related documents in the case remain under seal.

Various media outlets, including the New Hampshire Union Leader, filed motions requesting that the documents be unsealed following Mazzaglia's arrest.

The state filed a nine-page objection and a hearing was held in front of Morrison on Oct. 29.

In court and in his objection, Assistant Attorney General James Vara argued that releasing the documents prior to the state seeking a grand jury indictment could taint the testimony of witnesses or impact the testimony of witnesses already reluctant to come forward.

Mazzaglia's defense argued that release of the documents at this time could impact their client's right to a fair trial.

In his order, Morrison asserted that the public and the media have the right to court documents under the New Hampshire Constitution, but said that right of access is not absolute.

".if there are overriding considerations or special circumstances, the right of access may be delayed for a period of time," Morrison said.

The present nature of the investigation and a more detailed explanation for concern relative to making documents public was presented to Morrison during an in camera review following Monday's hearing.

Mazzaglia's defense attorneys also met with Morrison in chambers, where they revealed factors that would raise concerns about their own ongoing investigation if the file were to be unsealed, according to the judge's order.

"The court is very sensitive to this right of the media to have immediate access to the withheld information based upon statutory right, case law authority and as a matter of general principle," Morrison said. "However, there are occasions when that right to disclosure must be delayed to insure the ability of the State to conduct a full and fair investigation and ultimately a full and fair prosecution."

A request to release a redacted version of the documents was also denied.

"This is not a case where a few names could be removed and there by satisfy the concerns expressed by both sides. It is the underlying facts and theories that are interwoven throughout the affidavit which gives rise to legitimate concerns," Morrison said.

He said there is nothing in the documents or that has been revealed in court that indicates any threat to the public at this time.

He said the matter may be reconsidered after 60 days at the request of any party.

Mazzaglia waived a probable cause hearing scheduled for Monday and his case will now be bound over to Strafford County Superior Court for indictment.

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Gretyl Macalaster may be reached at gmacalaster@newstote.com.

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