A recently dismissed murder case in Arkansas shows that concerns that law enforcement are unjustifiably accessing data from mobile phones is only a part of the problem.

In a murder case where James Bates was charged with first degree murder in the 2015 death of retired police officer Victor Collins after a night of drinking after Collins had been found floating face down in Bates’ hot tub the Prosecutor dropped the case after evidence that was stored in an Amazon Echo speaker emerged.

The Prosecutor in dropping the charge told the Judge “I can’t stand in front of a jury and ask them to convict someone beyond a reasonable doubt if I myself have a reasonable doubt”.

The Amazon Echo ended the murder case because someone present on the night of Collins’ death recalled hearing music streaming through the device that evening.

According to Amazon Echo works by constantly listening for the “wake word” – “Alexa” or “Amazon” and then records your voice and transfers it to a processor for analysis so that it can fulfil requests or answer questions.  The recordings are streamed and stored remotely and can be reviewed or deleted over time according to Amazon.

On the night of the incident Bates had invited his friend, former police officer Collins aged 47 to his home and they watched football and drank beer and vodka and they then decided to get into Bates’ hot tub and Bates said he went to bed at 1.00 am and when he woke up the next morning Collins was floating face down in the tub.

Bates’ attorney argued that Collins’ death was a tragic accident possibly stemming from him having a blood alcohol content of .32.


This case highlights the extent to which electronic material  in ever expanding fields and forums  needs to be sought out by the defence.  One wonders whether an Australian Crown Prosecutor would have taken the same course of action as the American Prosecutor in this case.