Amazon reportedly ordered to hand over Echo recordings in N.H. murder trial

According to local reports, prosecutors believe an Amazon Echo smart speaker may have captured evidence of a double murder.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
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Once again, Amazon appears to be in a potential privacy fight over the Echo recordings of someone accused of murder.

Timothy Verrill of Dover, New Hampshire, stands accused of two counts of first-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors in the case reportedly believe that an Amazon Echo smart speaker in the kitchen of the Farmington home where the crime occurred may have captured audio of the alleged stabbing of one of the victims.

According to court documents cited by CBS Boston affiliate WBZ 4, investigators think the victim was attacked in the kitchen, "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."

Now, a judge has reportedly granted the state's request to hear that audio -- but Amazon says not yet.

"Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us," an Amazon spokesperson told CNET. "Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course." 

The potential legal dispute feels like a flashback to last year, when prosecutors in Benton County, Arkansas, issued a warrant seeking the Echo recordings of James Bates, who stood accused of murdering Victor Collins at his home in Bentonville. Amazon initially fought the warrant, and made the case that its users' conversations with Alexa are protected by the First Amendment.

"Such interactions may constitute expressive content that implicates privacy concerns and First Amendment protections," the company's lawyers wrote in a court filing at the time.

Amazon ultimately dropped its challenge and handed over the recordings once Bates himself consented to the disclosure. The murder charge against Bates was eventually dropped.

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