Largo, Florida police detectives have made a questionable move during an investigation. In an attempt to unlock a phone of Linus F. Phillip, who was fatally shot in March by an officer, detectives went to a funeral home in Clearwater to use the deceased man's hands. Detectives wanted to analyze data on the phone in the investigation of his death and separate information that he may have been involved with drugs.
Victoria Armstrong, the fiance of late Phillip, told Tampa Bay Times that the experience made her feel "so disrespected and violated." She was at the Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home when two detectives came to allegedly use the corpse of Phillip to unlock his phone. They attempted to unlock the device by holding Phillip's hand up to its fingerprint sensor. Lt. Randall Chaney said the attempt was not successful.
"The law has been most cruel, really unforgiving to a dead person," said Southampton Law School associate professor Remigius Nwabueze to the Times. "It provides no entitlement or legal rights after death to a deceased person." While the move by the detectives was legal, Phillip's family said it was disrespectful.
"Nobody even calling us from the facility to let us know detectives were coming there at all is very disturbing," Armstrong said. "I'm very skeptical of all funeral homes now."
Chaney added that to his knowledge, the department has never tried to unlock a phone this way during an investigation. It is unconstitutional to search a phone without a warrant, but Fifth Amendment protections do not cover the deceased.
The police report for Phillip's death states that during a traffic stop in March, he drove off in his vehicle and dragged a cop with him. The police officer than open fired, resulting in Phillip's death. According to the Times, Phillip's family does not trust this account.