Florida police have raised eyebrows by recently showing up at a funeral home and trying to use a dead man’s finger to access his phone, according to a report.
Victoria Armstrong was at Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home in Clearwater when two detectives showed up and held the hands of her fiance, Linus Phillip, to the fingerprint sensor on his phone, the Tampa Bay Times reported last Friday.
“I just felt so disrespected and violated,” Armstrong told the newspaper. The unlocking attempt failed, but police—who shot and killed Phillip in a gas-station clash last month —say the phone’s data could have helped in probing the man’s death and resolving a drug inquiry that includes Phillip.
Largo Police Department officers had approached Phillip at a gas station after they said they smelled marijuana coming from his vehicle, Tampa television station WFLA reported.
Police tried to detain Philip, who jumped into the car and began driving away, dragging one of the officers, according to the station. Authorities said the officer — who narrowly avoided being hit by the vehicle — fired four shots in an effort to defend himself.
All four bullets struck the suspect, police said.
The effort to unlock the deceased cellphone’s has since triggered a legal debate.
“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 Tampa Bay Times. “There’s a ghoulish component to it that’s troubling to most people.”
But police say they got Phillip’s phone within a 48- to 72-hour period when fingerprint access is allowed, and Florida law only states who is authorized to get rid of a dead person’s remains—not who has access to them.
The case will likely go to the courts, where judges aren’t always kind to the dead.
“The law has been most cruel, really unforgiving to a dead person,” said Remigius Nwabueze, who is an associate professor of law at Southampton Law School. “It provides no entitlement or legal rights after death to a deceased person.”
This article originally appeared on Newser: Cops Try Unlocking Phone With Dead Man’s Finger
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