Family of slain woman fights to keep court records sealed
CONCORD, N.H. >> The parents of a University of New Hampshire student who was raped and killed in 2012 are fighting to keep details about her sexual history from exposure to the public.
Elizabeth "Lizzi" Marriott, of Westborough, Massachusetts, was 19 years old when she was killed. The man convicted of her murder, Seth Mazzaglia, 32, is serving a life sentence. His case is going through the appeals process.
The state Supreme Court ruled Friday that previously sealed documents relating to Marriott's "alleged prior consensual sexual activity," which form the basis of Mazzaglia's appeal, should be made public. The state's rape shield law helped keep the information out of the trial. New Hampshire's attorney general won a stay Tuesday in the records' unsealing.
If the records eventually are released, Marriott's parents' are asking journalists not to report on details of her private life.
"My child has been murdered; her ability to speak and provide context has been silenced by this monster who has no regard for human life," the victim's father, Bob Marriott, said at a news conference Tuesday. "We deserve our privacy to be respected."
In a unanimous order to unseal the records, the Supreme Court justices wrote that keeping them sealed would conflict with the public's right to open court records and proceedings. A rule change adopted in January makes it easier for the high court to unseal documents made private in trial court proceedings.
Politicians and victims' advocates have strongly condemned the court's decision, saying it renders the state's rape shield law moot and may prevent victims from speaking out.
"How can we really tell a victim that their right to privacy is protected if they come forward?" said Lyn Schollett, executive director of New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. "These are promises we can no longer make."
Attorney General Joe Foster wrote in a Monday court filing that unsealing the records "eviscerates" protections granted to rape victims by the Legislature and "represents a catastrophic sea change for victims of sexual assault."
Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has urged the Supreme Court to reverse course. She said the decision could have a "devastating impact on victims and their families."
New Hampshire's two senators also decried the Supreme Court ruling.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, said it moves New Hampshire in "exactly the wrong direction," at a time when lawmakers nationwide are looking to strengthen protections for sexual assault survivors. Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte said the court must reconsider its "terribly misguided order given its disgraceful treatment of victims and their families."
Chris Johnson, Mazzaglia's appellate public defender, said Tuesday he could not comment because the matters remain under seal.
During his trial, Mazzaglia denied raping and killing Marriott but he said he helped cover up her murder. Mazzaglia's girlfriend at the time of the murder, Kathryn McDonough, testified that she lured Marriott to Mazzaglia's apartment as a sexual offering, and that Mazzaglia strangled Marriott when she refused his advances. McDonough's sentence for her role in the murder is set to end in July.
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