Sununu signs bills protecting sex assault victims

Staff photo by DAMIEN FISHER Bob Marriott, father of murder victim Lizzi Marriott, watched Gov. Chris Sununu sign four bills on Wednesday protecting victims of sexual assault, including a bill inspired by Lizzi Marriott’s case that now protects the privacy rights of victims.

CONCORD – Gov. Chris Sununu signed four bills into law on Wednesday to protect the rights of sexual assault victims, including the right to privacy for victims in a bill inspired by the Lizzi Marriott murder case.

“These bill were all passed with strong bipartisan support, we know that these issues are everyone’s issues,” Sununu said.

Marriott was the University of New Hampshire sophomore killed in 2012 after she reportedly rejected the sexual advances of Seth Mazzaglia, who was later convicted and imprisoned for her murder. Mazagglia’s defense team tried to have Marriott’s unrelated sexual history brought in as evidence in the appeal of his murder conviction, but that was eventually stopped by the New Hampshire Supreme Court last year when the court ruled to protect her privacy.

Bob Marriott, Lizzi’s father, said the Supreme Court ruling only applied to his daughter’s case and not the many other victims of sexual assault who faced having their sexual history dragged into court, whether or not it was relevant to the case at hand.

With Sununu’s signing of Senate Bill 9, New Hampshire victims of sexual assault will now have their sexual histories safeguarded, making it easier for them to come forward.

“(We) believe that Lizzi rests easier knowing that her great loss led to something for others,” Bob Marriott said.

The other bills Sununu signed give more protection to victims of sexual assault, including child victims.

Senate Bill 166 allows victim of sexual assault who become pregnant to terminate the parental rights of their abusers.

House Bill 94 restricts the types of defenses that can be used in cases involving underage sex trafficking victims; perpetrators will no longer be able to use the defense they didn’t know the victim’s age or the victim gave consent.

House Bill 220 changes the wording in state law concerning child pornography to include child sex abuse images, making it easier for law enforcement to go after the perpetrators of these crimes, Sununu said.

Sununu said the bills highlight the push in New Hampshire to keep people safe from abuse and to help those who have been victimized.

“New Hampshire is the model, and hopefully will continue to be the model, that states across the country look to when looking to create safe communities free from violence,” he said.