EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

June 23, 2014

Defense case to begin as murder trial nears end

DOVER, N.H. (AP) — Lawyers for the man charged with raping and killing a 19-year-old University of New Hampshire student are set to begin their case and move closer to answering the question: Will the defendant testify?

Seth Mazzaglia, 31, is charged with first degree murder in the October 2012 death of Elizabeth “Lizzi” Marriott of Westborough, Mass.

Prosecutors have said Mazzaglia strangled Marriott when she rebuffed his sexual advances, then raped her motionless body.

Defense lawyers claim Mazzaglia’s former girlfriend — 20-year-old Kathryn McDonough — smothered Marriott during rough sex. They present their case starting today.

McDonough was on the witness stand for 10 days, testifying under a grant of immunity.

Veteran defense attorneys contend it’s risky to expose a defendant to cross-examination, but add that it is Mazzaglia’s decision to make — even if his lawyers disagree.

“It’s absolutely up to the defendant himself whether he wants to take the stand,” said attorney Mike Ramsdell, a former homicide prosecutor. “There are very few trial strategy decisions the attorney doesn’t make...but that’s one of them.”

Mazzaglia’s lawyers — Joachim Barth and Melissa Davis — prepared prospective jurors during jury selection for the likelihood Mazzaglia would not testify, but that was a month and 17 days’ of testimony ago.

Jurors are instructed that the defendant has no obligation to testify and they should not hold it against him if he does not.

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