Amazon Ordered to Hand Over Possible Echo Recordings Related to Double Homicide

Illustration for article titled Amazon Ordered to Hand Over Possible Echo Recordings Related to Double Homicide
Photo: Elaine Thompson (AP)

A judge has ordered Amazon to turn over any data it has pertaining to a New Hampshire double homicide that happened in January of 2017, saying the court has probable cause to believe an Echo may have created recordings that could be useful to the case. But Amazon doesn’t seem eager to fork over audio it may have on its servers if Alexa was indeed eavesdropping at the time of the incident.


“Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us,” an Amazon spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement by email. “Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”

Authorities say the Echo was sitting on the kitchen counter in the Farmington home of Christine Sullivan at the time of her murder, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. Prosecutors in the murder case are interested in possible Echo recordings of both Sullivan’s murder and the removal of her body from the home. The ruling stated, per the Post:

The court finds there is probable cause to believe the server(s) and/or records maintained for or by contain recordings made by the Echo smart speaker from the period of Jan. 27 to Jan. 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.

The device would have in theory needed to be triggered with one of several wake words, including “Alexa,” “Amazon,” “Computer,” or “Echo,” in order to record. Recordings can be reviewed and deleted by users, and Amazon maintains that its voice assistant isn’t constantly recording your conversations. There is, however, at least some evidence to the contrary.

Timothy Verrill, who was reportedly a friend of both Sullivan and the boyfriend with whom she shared the home, is accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of both Sullivan and her friend Jenna Pellegrini. He pleaded not guilty to the murders and is currently awaiting trial in May of next year.

This isn’t the first time that prosecutors have eyed Alexa as a witness in a murder case. Last year, after initially refusing to comply with a subpoena for possible recordings in another homicide, Amazon ultimately acquiesced after the defendant agreed to let the company turn the information over. The charges were later dropped.

[Washington Post]



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