Police try to use dead man’s fingerprint to unlock phone

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Police try to use dead man’s fingerprint to unlock phone

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
FILE PHOTO

- Police in Florida tried an unusual means recently to unlock a cellphone.

They visited a funeral home in Clearwater to use a dead man’s finger to open his phone as part of the investigation into his death, as well as another case they were working on, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

But while legal, not everyone is agreeing that they should have used Linus Phillip’s body to try to open the phone.

Phillip’s finncée, Victoria Armstrong, told the Times, “I just felt so disrespected and violated.”

She was at the Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home on the same day that the detectives came to the mortuary to use his fingers to unlock the phone.

It didn’t work. 

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Lt. Randall Chaney said the detectives were trying to not only get access to the data the device held, but also preserve it, using the information in the investigation into Philip’s death last month, as well as a drug investigation, police said also involved Phillip, the Times reported.

Chaney said that detectives didn’t think they needed a warrant because of his death and no expectation of privacy when dead. Legal experts for the Times agreed with the detective’s assertion.

But his family, as well as a law professor, do not.

“While the deceased person doesn’t have a vested interest in the remains of their body, the family sure does, so it really doesn’t pass the smell test,” Charles Rose, a professor at Stetson University College of Law, told the Times. “There’s a ghoulish component to it that’s troubling to most people.”

The director of the funeral home directed questions to the company’s corporate offices.

A Largo police officer shot and killed Phillip in March after police said he tried to drive away when an officer was going to search him, the Times reported.

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