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The Judge Instructs Amazon To Provide an Echo Recording at Two Murder Trials

The prosecutor is hoping once again the smart speaker data could be the key to securing a murder conviction. The New Hampshire judge has ordered Amazon to offer recordings from Echo loudspeakers between January 27, 2017 and January 29, 2017 (plus the information to identify a paired smartphones) to help investigate the murders. The court determined that the speaker could have captured the audio and its aftermath for a murder.

Law enforcement has indicted Timothy Verrill with mudering Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pellegrin at Sullivian’s boyfriend Dean Smoronk home. Verrill was able to access the security code of the house which surveillance camera recorded him with two women, which made investigators believe that the Echo might have some information that could unviel the murder case.
It is unclear whether there is information to provide. In a statement, Amazon did not acknowledge the recording but said it would not provide customers data unless “valid and binding legal requirements are provided”.

However, the possibility of recording is not very high. Like many smart speakers, Echo does not record continuously. The speaker’s hotword (usually “Alexa”) captures the audio only for a short time only. The killer had to explicitly activate the echo while committing the crime. Pair-connected phones did not necessarily help. You do not need to connect a specific phone to an Echo to use it, and a paired phone will not tell you who used the speaker.

In its sense, the prosecuting team has succeeded in using the Echo-device to secure its beliefs. In 2017, the judge dismissed the case of a high-profile for James Bates after his friend Victor Collins ‘ hot tub death. The lawyers managed to acquire data from Amazon, but that and other evidence was not sufficient to rule out “other rational explanations” for Collins death, such as his very high blood alcohol level. Smart speakers such as Echo are far from the obvious piece of evidence on this same occasion

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