In brief: An Echo smart speaker has once again found itself at the center of a murder case. A New Hampshire judge has ordered Amazon to produce any recordings the device may have as they could contain evidence related to a double homicide.
CBS Boston reports that Timothy Verrill has been charged with murdering Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pelligrini sometime between January 27 and 29, 2017. He denies the accusations and is awaiting trial in May next year.
The bodies of both women were found under the porch of a house, which contained the Echo device seized by police. According to court documents: “Investigators believe Sullivan was attacked in the kitchen of 979 Meaderboro Road where the Echo was located, and prosecutors believe there is probable cause to believe there is evidence on the Echo, such as audio recordings of the attack and events that followed it.”
The Echo only starts recording when it hears certain wake words, but it’s not uncommon for it to mishear things and accidentally begin recording. Additionally, prosecutors stated that the smart speaker captures “the fraction of a second of audio before the wake-up words,” and that there would be records of paired devices.
In a statement to Business Insider, the company said: "Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us. Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course."
Amazon has been here before. Back in 2016, police in Bentonville, Arkansas, wanted to use Echo audio in another murder case. The company refused to hand over the data, claiming it was protected by the First Amendment, but the defendant eventually permitted prosecutors to examine the recordings. In the end, the device didn’t reveal any damning evidence, and the case was dismissed.