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Supreme Court ruling reaffirms 'rape shield' law

Staff Report
November 13. 2016 8:50PM


CONCORD — The state Supreme Court has ruled again that information about slain college student Lizzi Marriott’s alleged sexual history should remain private.

A lawyer for Seth Mazzaglia, who was convicted of first-degree murder of Marriott, may not mention her sexual history during oral arguments at Mazzaglia’s appeal on Wednesday before the state’s highest court. That appeal is open to the public and scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m.

The court issued an order Thursday denying a request by Mazzaglia’s attorneys for “unrestricted” oral arguments.

Marriott, a 19-year-old student at the University of New Hampshire, was sexually assaulted and killed in 2012 by Mazzaglia, who was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to life in prison.

Appealing his conviction to the Supreme Court, Mazzaglia’s attorneys had argued that records pertaining to Marriott’s sexual history should be made public. Defense attorneys had maintained during Mazzaglia’s trial that Marriott had accidentally suffocated during consensual sex.

The trial judge ruled that alleged evidence of her sexual history was inadmissible, under what’s known as the state’s “rape shield” law, and the court sealed its records on those proceedings.

In Mazzaglia’s appeal, his attorneys argued that the Superior Court had erred in barring such evidence at trial.

In June, the Supreme Court decided that the sealed portion of the trial court record and unredacted briefs should not be sealed on appeal and should be available for public review.

The Attorney General’s Office immediately asked for a stay of that decision and a full hearing before the high court; both were granted.

The court’s decision to unseal the records prompted widespread outrage among victim advocates here and nationwide, who argued it would have eliminated long-standing protections for victims of sexual assault and “eviscerated” the state’s rape shield law.

In September, the Supreme Court changed course, stating only, “Having considered the oral arguments, briefs and the applicable law, we hereby order that the records sealed by the trial court shall remain sealed and that the parties’ unredacted appellate briefs and appendices shall remain confidential.”

The court reiterated Marriott’s privacy last month.

Thursday's order, and the one on Oct. 14, can be viewed below:

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