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N.H. Supreme Court Weighs Waiving Rape Shield Protection in Mazzaglia Murder Appeal

Paige Sutherland/NHPR
Victims' rights advocate Lyn Schollett, left, says if the N.H. Supreme Court releases this private information it will set a bad precedent for Rape Shield Laws nationally. Victim Lizzi Marriott's parents stand together in the back.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on whether information regarding the victim's sexual past in the Seth Mazzaglia murder case should be kept sealed throughout the appeal process.

During trial this specific information on 19-year-old UNH student Lizzi Marriott was protected under the state’s Rape Shield Law.

The conversation Wednesday revolved around whether keeping this information sealed outweighs the public’s right to open court proceedings.

Most of the five justices including Carol Conboy continued to press this idea of ruling behind closed doors.

“This is going to be the first time we are asked to do this because in all of our prior cases - no one has asked us to close the courtroom or to seal the records,” Justice Conboy told the prosecution.

Click here to read more about the background around this issue.

Rus Rilee, the lawyer for the victim’s family, told the court that because this case involves a sex crime it should be an exemption.  

“If Rape Shield information that is sealed at the trial court is allowed to be open to the public when a defendant files an appeal then that eviscerates the entire protection of what the Rape Shield statute is,” Rilee told the justices, adding that this would be an unprecedented move nationally.

But the defense argues keeping these proceedings closed interferes with public accountability. 

Mazzaglia's lawyer, Chris Johnson, also argued that because their appeal centers on the fact that this specific information. the victim's sexual past, should have been heard by the jury, sealing it would handicap his client during his appeal.

A decision could take weeks or months to be released. 

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