The Tylenol Mafia

Free The Tylenol Mafia by Scott Bartz

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Authors: Scott Bartz
all of the Tylenol bottles turned over to police or confiscated from stores in the Chicago area. Fahner said a J&J official had informed his office on Thursday that Johnson & Johnson would pay all costs associated with collecting the Tylenol capsules from stores in Illinois and moving them to the temporary lab. J&J’s staff of 30 toxicologists at that lab had already begun testing Extra Strength Tylenol capsules on Friday, October 1 st . The reason J&J was able to begin testing those capsules so quickly was because J&J had set up the temporary lab in one of its own warehouses – the Johnson & Johnson Midwest Distribution Center in Lemont. Johnson & Johnson had thus taken control of the physical evidence from the Tylenol murders crime scene, and was now in a good position to ensure that it would not be held liable for the poisonings in a court of law.


Above the Law
    Richard Epstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago and the author of several books on consumer law, explained the legal implications for J&J if the tamperings had occurred in the retail stores, versus the distribution channel. “If the tampering is not linked to the manufacture or distribution of Tylenol,” said Epstein, “McNeil could be free from any liability.” If, however, it turned out that a disgruntled employee altered the capsules at the manufacturing plant or somewhere along the way before the bottles were shipped, Epstein said McNeil “would be in a lot more trouble.”
    The public accepted very quickly the theory that the Tylenol killer had put cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules into bottles that were already sitting on the shelves of Chicago area retail stores. This tampering at-the-retail-stores theory was the cornerstone of the “approved theory” for the Tylenol murders. The second and third components of this theory were that the cyanide would have eaten through the gelatin-based capsules within just one to a few days, and that the Tylenol killer was an anonymous madman.
    The approved theory benefited Johnson & Johnson in a number of ways. If the tamperings were not linked to the manufacturing plants or the distribution channel, then neither J&J nor its distributors could be held liable for the tamperings or the murders. Officials touted the alleged super-corrosiveness of cyanide as “scientific proof” that the tamperings had occurred after the Tylenol was delivered to local retail stores. The FBI quickly developed a psychological profile of the Tylenol killer as a mentally unstable loner who had poisoned the Tylenol capsules at the retail stores. This illusory character drew attention away from the obvious suspects working within Johnson & Johnson’s channel of distribution.
    Illinois Attorney General, Tyrone Fahner, laid out the basic premise of this approved theory. He said the Tylenol was not tampered with until it reached the stores, ruling out the possibility that the capsules were filled with cyanide during either manufacturing or distribution. According to Fahner, the cyanide-spiked capsules probably were placed in the stores on Tuesday, September 28 th , apparently on the front of the shelves to ensure that they would sell quickly. Fahner said the Tylenol killer began with one bottle of cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules, and went from store to store replacing a random number of Tylenol capsules in bottles already in the stores, with poisoned capsules.
    When Fahner was asked if there was any possibility that the tampering had occurred at the manufacturing plant; he replied, “It is a mathematical and physical impossibility. It could not have been done in the factory.” He said the potassium cyanide was a corrosive that would soon destroy the capsule’s gelatin shell. Officials cited this super-corrosive characteristic of cyanide as proof that the Tylenol capsules had been filled with cyanide and planted in the retail stores the day before the poisonings. But they had no real evidence to support

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