back to article Bungling cops try to use dead chap's fingers to unlock his smartmobe

Detectives from Largo, Florida, visited a funeral home in nearby Clearwater and tried, unsuccessfully, to unlock a phone with the hand of its deceased owner to aid an investigation. Thirty-year-old Linus Phillip was shot and killed by a Largo police officer in March. His fiancée, Victoria Armstrong, was at the funeral home …

  1. Korev Silver badge


    So the organisation who have been accused of killing him have tried to unlock his phone to "gather evidence". Isn't this the kind of thing that would cause a judge to throw it out of court?

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: Cops

      "... cause a judge to throw it out of court?"

      Only in a country with the rule of law and judges that are not chosen politically. Maybe.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Aces & Eights are clearly no good.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "the two officers didn't think a warrant was required because there is no expectation of privacy after death"

    It may or may not be required but it was up to them to know, not to think.

    1. tfewster Silver badge

      "there is no expectation of privacy after death"

      I very much doubt that is true. Though, in the US, who knows?

      1. WeeHeavy

        There's very little expectation of privacy while you're alive... After you're dead they can make up whatever they want, it would seem.

      2. Malcolm Weir Silver badge


        Depending on the issue of "privacy of what", it may be true. Medical information, for example, ceases to be private, but attorney/client privilege (and I believe "confessional" privilege) survive (to the extent they survive while your alive, c.f. Mr. Cohen and the criminal enterprise exception).

        However, this may fall foul of a different issue: who owns the body? If it is owned by the next-of-kin, this may violate the rights of them, in that this represents a search of their property...

        1. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: Optional

          "who owns the body?"

          In English law bodies aren't property and can't be owned.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Optional

            >In English law bodies aren't property and can't be owned.

            Depends on what you are trying to do with it...

            Try to legally register someone's death, remove their body from a hospital mortuary and hold a funeral when you are neither the deceased's spouse or their executor and do not have the express permission of either of these individuals to perform any of the above...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Optional

          (and I believe "confessional" privilege)

          I don't know about the US, but in the UK there is no official legal protection for "confessional privilege", it's merely customary to accept it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's only a matter of time before they get sued off a dead person.

  4. Chozo

    I pity the lawyer who claims the accused gave his consent

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Did they when they were alive? "Can you unlock the phone", "Yes" [bang], "Oh, whoops!"?

      1. Anonymous Cow Herder


        I think the consent is in the EULA of the bullet.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      >I pity the lawyer who claims the accused gave his consent

      This is America! there was probably one on the next shelf - his signature was witnessed by two representatives of the LEA...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why stop there?

    Why not peel his face off, get the other cop to wear it and try a face unlock. On of them must have had a leatherman.

    Seems in line with using a dead mans finger.

    1. colinb

      Re: Why stop there?

      yeah, this is the definition of gruesome.

      They might not need to take the face off, why would the face not unlock dead or alive. Its mainly a model of proportional features. Might need some toothpicks for the eyes.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why stop there?

      No need for face-peeling, just acquire one finger and 'galvanize' it a little with some electromotive force. The finger will touch the screen of its own accord, satisfying even the most stringent liveness tests.

      Oh wait, those muscles are back in the forearm. Hmmm, better take the whole arm...

  6. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    "...bypassing the liveness checks of Face ID without requiring a creepy mask should not be beyond determined members of the authorities."

    I would say that as walking & talking without dropping their doughnut and/or shooting someone appears to be beyond most 'members of the authorities' in the southern US, doing the necessary to enliven a corpse is very likely to be beyond them; regardless of how determined they may be.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Never seen Weekend at Bernie's?

  7. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

    Hello, I'm Officer Ed Gein

    Ed Gein, The real-life inspiration behind the stories of Texas Chainsaw Masscre and Psycho.

    Turns out in the latest Chainsaw re-make, if you look real-ll close, there's a pile of iPhone's on the back of his workbench.

    An old-school hacker, I suppose.

  8. Chris G Silver badge


    "Good morning Thir. Nameth Detective Thargent Igor Department of Thmart Phone Invethtigationth, would you thtand clear while I re-animate the thuthpect."

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Animation

      Well its a poor necromancer who blames the corpse...

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Animation

        Please, not "corpse," but "iDead".

        1. caffeine addict Silver badge

          Re: Animation

          Don't iPhones want you to blink? It's all about the iLids.

    2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: Animation

      Ahem. Don't let me detain you...

  9. armyknife

    The Dead Hand of Bureaucracy?

    See title.

  10. ecofeco Silver badge

    The Lazurus effect

    Cops playing God.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Lazurus effect

      "It's... iLive...!"

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the magical Face ID offered by the iPhone X

    So you cut off the owner's head to have it handy then?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Dead Laws

    If countries were serious they would legislate, especially the U.S., forcing mobile phone makers to provide a fail-safe way of accessing a mobile phone after the owner was deceased. Most likely by taking the device to the Mobile manufacturer and using a device specifically for that purpose, after death has been proved and a judgement or warrant is made.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Over my dead body

      number one on the list of things not to say in response to "Unlock your phone, ruffian", as it will presumably cause your subsequent demise to count as justified homicide on the part of the police.

      ("He was impeding our vital investigation into felonious mopery and fly-tipping. How else can we do our job?")

  13. Winkypop Silver badge

    They shoot the guy dead

    Then they abuse the body.


  14. Anonymous Coward

    How to spell?


    Or rocky horror style Frank N Finger?

  15. eldakka Silver badge

    If an autopsy had been ordered of the body and it was still in the coroners lab for that purpose then I'd agree with what they did.

    However from the article, either no autopsy had been undertaken or the body had been released to the family for burial. Therefore wouldn't they be potentially falling afoul of various "interfering with a body"-type laws? Many jurisdictions have laws about interfering with a body to blanketly cover - I presume - issues like grave robbing, necrophilia, stealing bodies for research/a lark, and so on.

    1. Chris G Silver badge


      "We're the police, we can't possibly be doing anything wrong!"

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      It was in the funeral home whilst the family were present. So they barged into the wake of someone they'd killed, and then presumably had to manipulate their corpse a bit to get the hand out, with the family looking on.


  16. DougS Silver badge

    I wonder what "evidence" they were looking for

    Was it evidence of his guilt, so their shooting could be justified - killing someone for simply running should not be permissible since the cops were not "in fear for their lives" and they did have any evidence that he was an imminent danger to others should he flee. Or perhaps were they concerned is phone might have evidence of of THEIR guilt - maybe they were on the take from him and were trying to squeeze him for more and they wanted to make sure he hadn't recorded any previous meetings?

    I think any cops going this far almost certainly have something to hide and should be investigated. This is not and should never be allowed to be normal police procedure! If the police won't return the phone to the widow, or if they do return it broken, that should be treated as probable cause for someone higher up than the Tampa police to get involved and start investigating these possibly crooked cops.

  17. Grant Fromage

    So in one sense the corpse "gave the police the finger" ?

    The meds are definitely not working today.


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