Dead 19-Year-Old's Sexual History Should Be Made Public

| by Mark Jones
The United States Supreme Court building is in Washington D.C.The United States Supreme Court building is in Washington D.C.

The sexual history of the late Lizzi Marriott should be released in September when the Supreme Court evaluates her rapist's appeal of a life sentence without parole.

Seth Mazzaglia raped and killed 19-year-old Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott in 2012, reports the Daily Mail. Reports say that the now 32-year-old man strangled Marriott before raping her and disposing of her body in the Piscataqua River. In 2014, Mazzaglia was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Mazzaglia is appealing his sentence, claiming that information about Marriott’s sexual history would change the court’s decision to leave the rapist in jail for the rest of his life.

Currently, Marriott’s privacy is protected by the Rape Shield Law.  According to the Legal Match Law Library, “Rape shield laws limit or prohibit the use of evidence of a victim's past sexual history to undermine that victim's credibility.”

Marriott’s parents are fighting to preserve their daughter’s privacy using the Rape Shield Law, reports the Daily Mail. Circumstances of this case render the Rape Shield Law unfitting.

Law Match’s Law Library states, “The purpose of rape shield laws is to protect victims from the emotional distress of being cross-examined about their sexual history on the witness stand.” But Marriott is dead. So, the victim has no chance of undergoing emotional distress by being questioned on a witness stand. It is not fair to use the Rape Shield Law for reasons other than its original purpose.

Mazzaglia’s lawyer, Christopher Johnson, explains why Marriott’s sexual history cannot remain a secret. According to The Huffington Post, the defender said, “The appellate process can’t be fair if it’s secret ... We don’t do secret appeals in this country, by and large.”

Johnson is correct. Mazzaglia’s Sixth Amendment rights outweigh Marriott’s protection under a law that is not relevant to this case.

Find Law’s definition of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that accused parties “shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” According annotations on the Sixth Amendment, the right to a “public trial” exists “to assure the criminal defendant a fair and accurate adjudication of guilt or innocence, it provides a public demonstration of fairness, it discourages perjury, the misconduct of participants, and decisions based on secret bias or partiality.”

So, an impartial jury needs to hear all information relevant to a case, including the deceased victim’s sexual history.

Kathryn McDonough testified in 2014 that she lured Marriott to the home of her then-boyfriend, Mazzaglia. McDonough told the court that Mazzaglia strangled Marriott with a rope after she rejected two of his sexual advances, reports CBS News.

Mazzaglia’s trial team claims that Marriott gave consent to a dangerous sexual activity and died accidentally, according to The Huffington Post.

The trial team’s greatest evidence in proving Mazzaglia’s claims was Marriott’s sexual history. The judge of the case refused to allow the trial team to use the sexual history because of the Rape Shield Law.

The Huffington Post reports that Mazzaglia is appealing his sentence specifically because keeping records of the victim’s sexual history private prevented the accused from receiving a fair trial. He believes that evidence of her sexual past would convince the jury that Marriott willingly had participated in dangerous sexual activities in October of 2012.

The U.S. guarantees fair trials to all of its citizens. To fulfill this promise to Mazzaglia, the Supreme Court must agree to release records of Marriott’s sexual history during his appeal.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: Daily Mail, The Huffington Post, CBS News, FindLaw (2), LegalMatch / Photo credit: Matt Wade/Flickr

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