FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Charges in a 2015 murder case where prosecutors sought and obtained audio recordings from an Amazon Echo smart home device have been dropped, officials say.
Charges were dropped in the murder case of James Bates, 31.
He was taken into custody and faced a charge of first-degree murder after a former Georgia police officer, Victor Collins, 47, was found dead in his hot tub. The Arkansas State Crime Lab said Collins’ death was homicide by strangulation with a contributing cause of drowning.
Bates said he had over Collins and two others to watch a football game. During the game, everyone was drinking beer and doing shots of vodka, according to court documents.
Bates said he and his friends continued drinking until 1 a.m. Then, he went to bed for the night. When he woke up, Bates said Collins was floating face down in the hot tub.
Prosecutors sought voice recordings from Bates’ Echo, and Amazon initially refused to hand over the data. This changed when Bates gave permission for the audio to be released.
Now, the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office said charges are being dropped because “they cannot meet legal requirements to procede.” The state has one year to refile charges.
The Bentonville Police Department said it didn’t agree with the case being dropped. “We believe it is important, and in the best interest of justice for the family, that this case be heard by a jury,” the police department said.