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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
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Justices to Take Another Swing at Weapons Law

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court will again consider chemical-weapons charges against a microbiologist who tried to poison her husband's lover.

After her husband impregnated her former friend, Carol Anne Bond barraged the woman, Myrlinda Haynes, with harassing phone calls and letters. Over several months, she then spread highly toxic chemicals on the Haynes' home doorknob, car door handles, and mailbox to poison her.

Bond obtained the chemicals from her employer, chemical manufacturer Rohm and Haas, stealing some 10-chloro-10H-phenoxarsine and ordering a vial of potassium dichromate over the Internet.

Half a teaspoon of 10-chloro-10H-phenoxarsine is lethal if ingested, and a few crystals are highly toxic. Potassium dichromate is even more dangerous; less than one-quarter of a teaspoon ingested can kill.

Haynes often noticed and avoided the chemicals, but once burned her thumb. She complained to police, who told her to clean her car and door handles regularly, as the substance might be cocaine. Frustrated, she turned to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which put up surveillance cameras.

Cameras caught Bond opening Haynes' mailbox, stealing a business envelope and placing potassium dichromate in the muffler of Haynes' car.

Inspectors also discovered that nearly four pounds of the chemical were missing at the Rohm and Haas site where Bond worked.

The evidence led to an arrest warrant for Bond, and search warrants for Bond's car and home, where inspectors found pieces of Haynes' mail and traces of the chemicals.

At a holding cell in the Philadelphia Post Office, Bond admitted to taking the chemicals from her employer.

Bond pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing and using a chemical weapon, and two counts of mail theft for trying to harm. She was sentenced to six years in prison, a $2,000 fine and nearly $10,000 in restitution.

On appeal, she claimed that the District Court should have suppressed certain evidence and should have dismissed the chemical weapons charges.

The 3rd Circuit refused in 2009 to let Bond challenge the chemical weapons charge as a violation of the 10th Amendment. Bond claimed that constitutional principles of federalism prohibit federal prosecution of "localized" crimes.

Bond had been convicted under the penal provision of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998, which implements the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.

Noting that the state was not a party to the federal criminal proceeding, the Philadelphia-based federal appeals panel found that Bond lacked standing to challenge the statute.

The Supreme Court disagreed in 2011, ordering the 3rd Circuit to address the merits of Bond's challenge on remand.

Writing for the unanimous court, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that Bond meets the prerequisites for Article III standing since her conviction and sentence "satisfies the case-or-controversy requirement, because the incarceration ... constitutes a concrete injury, caused by the conviction and redressable by invalidation of the conviction."

Kennedy added that Bond is not trying assert the legal rights and interests of the state.

On remand, the 3rd Circuit again affirmed Bond's conviction.

It found that the Chemical Weapons Convention is an international agreement with a subject matter that lies at the core of the Treaty Power in Article II, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution.

Quoting from the 1920 decision Missouri v. Holland, the court said "there can be no dispute about the validity of [a] statute" that implements a valid treaty.

In taking up the case again Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to answer whether "the Constitution's structural limits on federal authority impose any constraints on the scope of Congress' authority to enact legislation to implement a valid treaty, at least in circumstances where the federal statute, as applied, goes far beyond the scope of the treaty, intrudes on traditional state prerogatives, and is concededly unnecessary to satisfy the government's treaty obligations."

Is will also decide if the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act can "be interpreted not to reach ordinary poisoning cases, which have been adequately handled by state and local authorities since the framing, in order to avoid the difficult constitutional questions involving the scope of and continuing vitality of this court's decision in Missouri v. Holland."

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