Amazon ordered to give Alexa evidence in double murder case
An Amazon Echo smart speaker could provide crucial evidence in a double murder case in the US after a judge in New Hampshire ordered the tech giant to provide investigators with recordings from the device.
The speaker, which features the artificial intelligence voice assistant Alexa, was seized from a home in Farmington where two women were killed in January 2017.
Timothy Verrill, 36, is charged with killing Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pellegrini by stabbing each woman multiple times.
Judge Steven M Houran wrote in the court order that an Echo device present in the home may have captured audio that could provide key evidence in the case.
“The court finds there is probable cause to believe the server[s] and/or records maintained for or by Amazon.com contain recordings made by the Echo smart speaker from the period of January 27, 2017 to January 29, 2017, and that such information contains evidence of crimes committed against Ms. Sullivan, including the attack and possible removal of the body from the kitchen” during that period,” Judge Houran wrote.
He then ordered Amazon 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 speaker during that time period.”
Mr Verrill has pleaded not guilty to murder charges and lesser counts of alleged crime scene tampering.
It is not the first time US authorities have attempted to obtain data from an Amazon Echo device in order to help solve a murder.
In 2015, police in Arkansas seized an Echo device as part of an investigation into the suspected murder of Victor Collins, whose body was discovered floating face-down in a hot tub.
Amazon only provided the data after the person accused of murder voluntarily agreed for the recordings to be handed over to investigators. The case was dismissed in November 2017.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the latest case but the firm has previously said that it “will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us.”
It added: “Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”