Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

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  • A Dangerous Delay

    In November 2018, Olivia Paregol’s father frantically called the University of Maryland from the intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The 18-year-old freshman, who had lived in a mold-infested dorm, was fighting for her life and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was there anything else on campus making students sick? The director of the student health center knew of severe cases of adenovirus on campus but the public had no clue. Less than a week later, Olivia was dead from the virus and the outbreak would sicken dozens of students. It was only after her death that school officials informed the campus about the virus. Ian Paregol had more questions than answers: How long had the university known? Why didn’t they tell Olivia or other students when they showed up sick at the student health center? Washington Post reporters Jenn Abelson, Amy Brittain and Sarah Larimer interviewed more than 100 people and obtained thousands of pages of medical records, hundreds of emails, text messages, voicemails and other documents to reconstruct the events that led to Olivia’s death and threatened the health and safety of thousands of students at the University of Maryland campus. College officials said it would cost $63,000 to disclose internal emails about the outbreak, so reporters obtained many of those records from state and county agencies. In May, the Washington Post published “A Dangerous Delay,” a detailed investigation examining the outbreak of mold and adenovirus at the University of Maryland. The reporters revealed that the school waited 18 days to inform students about the virus and officials discussed — but decided against — notifying students with compromised immune systems, like Olivia, and those living in mold-infested dorms.
  • In the hot seat

    When reporters at NBC News began probing OSHA severe injury data in February 2019, an interesting takeaway emerged: UPS had a higher rate of heat injuries than any other company. At least 107 UPS workers in 23 states had been hospitalized for heat illnesses since 2015. In severe cases, heat can lead to organ failure and death. But regulators have little enforcement ability on this issue because there is no OSHA standard protecting workers from heat--even as climate change brings record-breaking temperatures. NBC News filed more than two dozen public records requests for state-level data -- to supplement the federal OSHA data -- and hundreds of pages of incident reports, and spoke with dozens of UPS employees, uncovering a corporate culture that exacerbated the problem. Long hours, heavy routes, fear of retaliation and sweltering trucks and warehouses pushed workers workers past their limits. Managers pushing workers to continue working when sick, and employees too intimidated to report their injuries. UPS claimed that their iconic brown trucks do not get dangerously hot, but NBC News sent five temperature loggers in packages across the country, during one of the hottest weeks of the summer. The results showed that each package exceeded 100 degrees while on a truck, with one hitting nearly 115 degrees. Drivers around the country also sent us images of temperature readings they took in their own trucks -- the hottest clocked in at 158 degrees. Between rising temperatures and the growing demands of the two-day delivery economy, dozens of UPS drivers said conditions are getting worse. Follow up stories uncovered additional injuries and more examples of UPS poorly protecting its workers from the heat. Following our story, OSHA fined UPS for a heat injury for the first time in nearly a decade.
  • Northwest Jails' Mounting Death Toll

    Since 2008, at least 306 people across the Northwest have died after being taken to a county jail. Until now, that number was unknown, in part because Oregon and Washington have not comprehensively tracked those deaths in county jails. If they did, they would find a crisis of rising death rates in overburdened jails that have been set up to fail the inmates they are tasked with keeping safe. Key findings: - Over the past 10 years, the rate of jail deaths has trended upward in Oregon and Washington. In 2008, county jails in Washington had a mortality rate of about 123 deaths for every 100,000 inmates. By 2017, that rate was 162. Jail population data for 2018 were not yet available at the time of publication, but reported deaths spiked that year. A conservative estimate puts the 2018 mortality rate closer to 200 deaths per 100,000 inmates. - In 2018, police shot and killed 39 people between Oregon and Washington, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. For that same year, our investigation found 39 deaths in Oregon and Washington county jails. - At least 70 percent of Northwest inmates who died in the past decade were awaiting trial at the time of their deaths, still considered innocent under the law. - More than 40 percent of deaths happened within an inmate’s first week in jail. A third of all inmates who died never made it past three days. - Suicide, by far the leading cause of jail deaths in the Pacific Northwest, accounted for nearly half of all cases with a known cause of death.
  • Free to Shoot Again

    In cities from coast to coast, the odds that a shooter will be brought to justice are abysmally low and dropping. Police make an arrest in fewer than half of the murders committed with firearms. If the victim survives being shot, the chance of arrest drops to 1 out of 3. Staffing constraints are so dire at many police departments that thousands of nonfatal shooting cases are never even assigned a detective. The shooters are left free to strike again, fueling cycles of violence and eroding the public’s trust in law enforcement. The Trace, in partnership with BuzzFeed News and later WTTW, published “Free to Shoot Again,” a series of stories that interrogates this failure in policing and the toll that it takes on the people who live in the communities most impacted by gun violence.
  • Tarnished Brass

    In the name of protecting men and women in uniform, states across the country have made it nearly impossible to identify dangerous law enforcement officers with a track record of violence and other misdeeds. Records detailing their misconduct often are filed away, rarely seen by anyone outside of the department. Police unions and their political allies have worked to put special protections in place ensuring some records are shielded from public view, or even destroyed. A national tracking system for backgrounding officers is incomplete and not available to the public. More than two years ago, USA TODAY and its network of newsrooms across the nation set out to change that. More than two dozen reporters began collecting public records from the communities they covered and beyond. Also contributing substantially to the record-gathering was the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism organization in Chicago that focuses on issues around policing tactics and criminal justice. We pieced together lists of decertified officers in more than 40 states. We collected logs and paper records related to 110,000 internal affairs investigations. We gathered information on 14,000 lawsuits against departments and fought to obtain so-called Brady lists, documenting officers flagged for lying and other misdeeds. Then we scoured story archives from our newsrooms and others to piece together the most comprehensive list of police misconduct cases ever built.
  • Bargaining the Badge: How Hundreds of Accused Texas Officers Avoid Prison

    Across Texas, hundreds of law enforcement officers have permanently surrendered their peace officer licenses in the past four years. A KXAN investigation of 297 of those surrenders uncovered nearly all the officers were accused or charged with a crime – most often felonies. KXAN also found this system allows some bad officers to operate under the radar for years. Through internal police department and court records, KXAN found several cases of officers accused repeatedly of misconduct. In those instances, the accused police officers were able to trade their badges in a plea bargain and walk away with probation.
  • Free to Shoot Again

    In cities from coast to coast, the odds that a shooter will be brought to justice are abysmally low and dropping. Police make an arrest in fewer than half of the murders committed with firearms. If the victim survives being shot, the chance of arrest drops to 1 out of 3. Staffing constraints are so dire at many police departments that thousands of nonfatal shooting cases are never even assigned a detective. The shooters are left free to strike again, fueling cycles of violence and eroding the public’s trust in law enforcement. The Trace, in partnership with BuzzFeed News and later WTTW, published “Free to Shoot Again,” a series of stories that interrogates this failure in policing and the toll that it takes on the people who live in the communities most impacted by gun violence.
  • Bribery Division

    The Bribery Division, an international investigation into Latin America’s largest construction company, reveals fresh evidence of hundreds of millions of dollars in suspicious payments linked to major infrastructure projects. Brazilian multinational Odebrecht has been implicated in a cash-for-contracts scandal that the U.S. Department of Justice has described as “the largest foreign bribery case in history.” The Bribery Division investigation unveils dramatic new information in taking readers inside the belly of the beast: Odebrecht’s Division of Structured Operations, a specialized unit created for the primary purpose of managing the company’s graft. A team of more than 50 journalists across the Americas, led by ICIJ, examined more than 13,000 Odebrecht documents from a secret communication platform used by the Structured Operations unit. The team’s sprawling expose revealed Odebrecht’s cash-for-contracts operation was even bigger than the company had acknowledged to prosecutors and had involved prominent figures and massive public works projects not mentioned in the criminal cases or other official inquiries to date.
  • An Innocent Man?

    Newsday’s multi-media investigation “An Innocent Man?” was the first to reveal widespread wrongdoing by Suffolk law-enforcement authorities in the 1975 Keith Bush murder conviction, one of the longest-running “innocent man” cases in U.S. history. In a year-long investigation, Newsday reporter Thomas Maier detailed: how police allegedly beat a false confession out of then-17-year-old Bush for the 1975 sex-related murder of schoolmate Sherese Watson; how forensic experts offered flawed evidence about Bush’s guilt and later lost the alleged murder weapon; how the prosecution’s main witness against Bush later recanted and said she made up all of her testimony; how DNA evidence pointing to Bush’s innocence was rejected; and, mostly significantly, how Bush’s trial prosecutor covered-up evidence of another potential suspect, John W. Jones Jr., who placed himself at the murder scene. That evidence about Jones remained a secret and Bush was convicted and sent to prison for 33 years. Newsday’s investigation began in June 2018 and the resulting 15,000-word print report and an accompanying documentary were published together in May 2019. Shortly afterward, a report by the current Suffolk County district attorney concluded that Bush had been wrongly convicted and a judge vacated his sentence – 44 years later. Several follow-ups by Newsday detailed reaction to the Bush case and were reflected in an updated documentary, written by Maier and edited by Newsday owner Patrick Dolan, which was posted on December 31, 2019. Maier’s painstaking work – which involved dozens of interviews and thousands of pages of legal documents – shed light on a tragic incident in the past and helped result in other similar cases receiving a thorough investigation.
  • Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons

    The first reported cases of Lyme disease surfaced in 1968; a half century later, CDC scientists believe there could be more than 300,000 new cases in the US every year. As this and other debilitating tick-borne diseases continue to spread, their origins have remained elusive. Some believe global warming is fueling the epidemic, others attribute it to human migration. But the fundamental question persists: where did Lyme disease come from? This mystery prompted Stanford University science writer and Lyme disease survivor Kris Newby to launch an investigation that led her to startling discoveries linking the outbreak to America’s clandestine biological warfare program. In BITTEN: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons (Harper Wave; May 14, 2019; ISBN: 978-006-289-6278; 352 pages; $26.99)—a riveting work of scientific reportage and biography that reads like a thriller—Newby reveals the story of Willy Burgdorfer, the man who discovered the microbe behind the disease, and his role in covering up evidence that could implicate another tick- borne organisms in the original outbreak.