A Carver County judge ruled Wednesday that documents related to Prince’s emergency medical landing in Moline, Ill., just days before his death be made available to attorneys representing the musician’s family.
The six heirs — Prince’s sister and five half-siblings — are contemplating a wrongful-death suit. The statute of limitations for filing suit in Illinois expires two years after a death — in this case, April 21. The deadline for such a filing in Minnesota is three years after a death.
Specifically, Judge Kevin Eide ruled that the heirs’ attorneys may review only those documents related to the emergency treatment of the rock star while he was in Moline, when an opioid overdose forced his private plane to make an emergency landing there less than a week before he died.
Paramedics scrambled to revive Prince on the tarmac after the plane landed. He recovered after two shots of naloxone, an overdose antidote increasingly being used and often referred to by its brand name Narcan, a source said.
Prince was 57 when his body was found in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found that he had died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than heroin.
Authorities found numerous pills in various containers around Prince’s home, including some counterfeit pills containing fentanyl. But the source of those drugs hasn’t been determined.
Eide stipulated that only the attorneys representing Prince’s heirs be allowed to review the documents and must do so at the Carver County Sheriff’s Office. They can take notes but cannot take photos or make copies or publicly discuss the information.
To date, no charges have been filed in connection with Prince’s death. Carver County Attorney Mark Metz has said that a charging decision will be made sometime in the near future.
Once the case is closed, all investigative records become public under state law.
Attorney Matthew Barber from Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, appeared in court Wednesday on behalf of the six heirs. Because Prince had no will, Eide named his sister Tyka Nelson and five half-siblings, Sharon, Norrine and John Nelson, and Omarr Baker and Alfred Jackson as heirs.
Metz initially had declined the siblings’ data request, but said in court that the integrity of the criminal investigation wouldn’t be compromised by the very limited release of documents related to the emergency stop in Moline. The motion for access was filed Feb. 7.
“Strictly controlled access to this data by the [heirs] for the sole purpose of determining whether a valid lawsuit may exist in Illinois before the statute of limitations expires outweighs potential harm to the public, so long as the confidentiality of the data remains assiduously protected before any final decision is made to charge or decline criminal charges,” Eide wrote in his order.
The order also precludes the attorneys from sharing information with the media, Prince’s next-of-kin and other staff working in the attorneys’ offices.
Prince was returning to the Twin Cities on a private plane from Atlanta when he fell ill and passed out. Search warrant affidavits unsealed in April 2017 said staff member and longtime friend Kirk Johnson told doctors in Moline that Prince may have taken Percocet.
Prince was documented as suffering from an opioid overdose, but the musician refused treatment at the hospital. Later, at a meeting back in the Twin Cities with medical professionals “to assess and address” health concerns, Prince admitted to taking one or two “pain pills” that night.
When the documents were unsealed, F. Clayton Tyler, Johnson’s attorney, issued a statement: “After reviewing the search warrants and affidavits released today, we believe that it is clear that Kirk Johnson did not secure nor supply the drugs which caused Prince’s death.”