It’s been nearly two years since Prince’s sudden death in 2016 from a drug overdose, but the story is far from over for Minneapolis reporter Amy Forliti. She has closely tracked the criminal investigation into his death ever since, cultivating law enforcement sources, prosecutors, defense attorneys, medical experts – anyone who could help her break developments along the way, including the possibility of criminal charges.
A medical examiner in June 2016 had cited an accidental overdose of fentanyl as the cause of Prince’s death, but that scant one-page report provided almost no other detail on the autopsy or what was in Prince’s blood. Forliti had pursued a copy of the autopsy and toxicology report ever since from multiple sources. She finally obtained the confidential toxicology report on March 26.
Forliti talked to three experts not involved in the case who analyzed blood and liver readings in the report and characterized them as “exceedingly high” – as one expert put it, they were very high even for a chronic pain patient. The report's new detail was of heightened interest as the two-year anniversary of Prince's death approached, with still no word on any charges in his death. The details were something no other media could match.
Forliti's exclusive report led the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website for hours and made the printed paper, a rarity for a story on which they compete with AP. Other play included ABC, NBC, CBS, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio and many more. CNN referenced the story on-air and on its website with credit to AP.
Forliti has closely tracked the criminal investigation into Prince's death, cultivating sources who could help her break developments along the way.
Some material in the case is under a protective order, and Forliti's story prompted questions from officials. It also led the county medical examiner to release a statement saying her office had put out all the public information they could on the case. Two days after her AP story ran, a Carver County judge who had been weighing a request from Prince's heirs to see investigative material approved it – but only via an extremely restrictive process to eliminate potential leaks.
For relentlessly working her sources to break news on a long-simmering story, Amy Forliti wins this week’s Best of the States award.