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Lawmaker shelves bill to give police access to locked phones

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BATON ROUGE- A proposal to allow criminal investigators with a court order to unlock homicide victims' cellphones has gotten stuck in a House committee, after lawmakers split on the idea.
    
The bill, called the Brittney Mills Act, is meant to solve the murder of the woman for which its named after.

Mills was 29-years-old at the time of her murder and eight months pregnant. She was gunned down at her apartment exactly one year ago.

“And it’s been a year today since we buried her,” Barbara Mills, Brittney’s mother said.

Before Mills’ murder, the password on her on her phone was changed. Law enforcement believes that if it was unlocked, her killer’s identity would be discovered.

However, cell phone companies have not been willing to help.

Rep. Ted James authored the bill and if passed, it would require every phone sold in the state to have an encryption override.

James believes the bill could help solve murders.

 “I firmly believe that Apple, Samsung can unlock a phone to solve a murder,” James said.

However, the cell phone industry opposes the bill because they believe the bill would put every phone user at risk of identity theft.

Additionally the attorney general’s office said the cost of enforcement would be high.

Lawmakers were left split on Monday.

“We're the victims now but you’re going to have victims all the time. but if they don’t do something about this cell phone encryption, the people who did it are just going to continue to do what they do,” Barbara Mills said.


Rep. James expects to bring the bill back before the Commerce Committee, saying it has more support than Monday's 6-6 vote suggested.

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