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.
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.