Murder Trial to Use Recordings from Amazon Echo

A double murder trial will use recordings from an Amazon Echo as evidence, according to the Associated Press. Timothy Verrill has been accused of first-degree murder for the 2017 deaths of Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pellegrini. He pleaded not guilty, although prosecutors think that Amazon Echo recordings can prove his stabbing and subsequent body removal of Sullivan. 

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Recordings from Amazon Echo will be used in Murder Trial

Justice Steven M. Houran ruled that New Hampshire authorities can use the Amazon recordings as evidence. “The court directs Amazon.com to produce forthwith to the court any recordings made by an Echo smart speaker with Alexa voice command capability…as well as any information identifying cellular devices that were paired to that smart speaker during that time period,”read a statement from Justice Houran.

In the past, Amazon has been forced to comply with legal demands, despite initial objections. When an Arkansas judge issued a warrant from an Echo recording, Amazon refused to comply, citing privacy rights. However, they later dropped their objection after James Andrew Bates, the accused, agreed to release the information. The murder charges were later dropped as “the evidence can support more than one reasonable explanation,” according to prosecutor Nathan Smith. In general, Amazon will only release customer information if there’s a “valid and binding legal demand properly served on us,” according to a spokesperson.

Many people aren’t aware that their data is being stored across multiple devices, according to a survey from market research company Clutch. The Echo begins streaming audio to the cloud after its “wake word” Alexa. The audio recording plus a transcription is stored in the Amazon Alexa app and can be manually deleted if preferred. Despite accusations that Alexa is constantly recording, Amazon maintains that the device only streams and records audio after hearing the word “Alexa”. It remains to be seen whether the Echo recordings will produce evidence placing Verrill in both time and space at the scene of the homicides.

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza is a journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. Throughout her career, her work has spanned many intersections within the tech industry. At SquareFoot, a New York-based real estate technology company, she wrote about the ways in which technology has changed the real estate industry, as well as the challenges that business owners face when they want to invest in property. At Degreed.com, an education technology website, Aliza created digital content for lifelong learners, exploring the ways in which technology has democratized education. Additionally, she has written articles for The Huffington Post as well as her own content on Medium, the online publishing platform. Aliza’s love of journalism and research stems from the excellent Journalism program at Brandeis University. At Brandeis, Aliza interned as a research assistant at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit “news room without walls”. There, Aliza was paired with an investigative journalist and used academic databases to obtain data on everything from the suicide rates in Bhutan to local Boston court cases. Her last position was as an account executive at Yelp, educating business owners on the power of technology to increase revenue. Throughout, however, her heart remained with tech journalism, and she’s thrilled to be writing for Security Baron. When she’s not keeping afloat of the latest tech trends, Aliza likes to cook, read, and write. A former high school “Class Clown,” Aliza has completed two feature-length screenplays, a pilot, and countless comedic sketches. On her days off you can find her relaxing in Prospect Park, trying the latest flavors at Ample Hills Ice Cream, and spending time with friends and family.

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