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House Judiciary Committee to Vote on SB 9 on Tuesday
Concord, NH – Tuesday, April 25th, Senate Bill 9, a bill to strengthen rape victims’ privacy rights, will be voted on by the NH House Judiciary Committee. The executive session is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. in Room 208 of the Legislative Office Building. Victim advocates, as well as the Marriott family, will be on hand, and are particularly concerned about the committee’s intention to strip substantive protections from the bill. That was the fate of a similar piece of legislation, originating in the House, which tried to address the same issues.
This bill seeks to do two critical things. First: it would ensure that the private, unrelated sexual history of victims will remain sealed in all NH court proceedings, including on appeal. Second: it defines “sexual activity” for the purposes of rape shield. This is the most critical piece of the bill, as it will give judges guidance in application of rape shield protections, and will make clear what protections are afforded to victims in rape cases. This bill does not infringe on defendant’s due process rights, and lays out a procedure for defense attorneys wishing to have a judge rule on evidence they wish to submit. Despite hearing no opposition to the provision defining “sexual activity” during the public hearing, and extensive testimony in support of the definition, members of the House Judiciary Committee plan to remove this section.
This legislation was introduced in response to a recent NH Supreme Court case in which the rapist and convicted murderer of college student, Lizzi Marriott, appealed his conviction before the NH Supreme Court. Mazzaglia’s defense argued that and irrelevant claims about the Lizzi’s sexual past should have been admitted at trial. On appeal, the NH Supreme Court decided to unseal this private information that had previously been protected under Rape Shield law—a decision which they reversed amid outcry from the family of Lizzi Marriott, NHCADSV, victims’ rights organizations across the country, then-Governor Maggie Hassan, and NH’s entire congressional delegation. “We have a responsibility to ensure that sexual assault victims are not forced to choose between justice and their right to privacy. Anything short of a full legislative fix to the Supreme Court’s decision is a failure to victims everywhere,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Affairs at the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
SB 9 was unanimously passed by the Senate last month and has the support of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and its 13 member programs, the NH Department of Justice, the NH Association of Chiefs of Police, and the ACLU-NH.
For more information, please contact Jessica Eskeland at 603-568-9357 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Coalition
NHCADSV is a statewide network of 13 independent member programs committed to ending sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking, through direct services to victims, community education, and public policy advocacy. The NHCADSV and its 13 member programs do not discriminate based on gender, age, health status (including HIV-positive), physical, mental, or emotional ability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socio-economic status, race, national origin, immigration status, or religious or political affiliation. For more information visit www.nhcadsv.org