Supreme Court justices skeptical of arms pact use in 'domestic dispute'
WASHINGTON — A love triangle that ended with a Montgomery County woman poisoning her pregnant rival spawned a debate over chemical weapons, international relations, federalism and chocolate at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, with justices left trying to make sense of how a jealous wife ended up being prosecuted for violating an international chemical weapons treaty.
Carol Anne Bond of Lansdale is challenging her conviction, saying that the federal government's decision to charge her using a chemical weapons law was an unconstitutional reach into a state's power to handle what her lawyer calls a domestic dispute.
Bond, unable to carry children of her own, was excited when her best friend Myrlina Haynes announced her pregnancy. But Bond found out her husband of more than 14 years, Clifford Bond, was the father.
Bond, a laboratory technician, stole the chemical 10-chloro-10H phenoxarsine from the company where she worked and purchased potassium dichromate on Amazon.com. Both can be deadly if ingested or exposed to the skin at sufficiently high levels.
Bond combined and spread the chemicals on Haynes' door handle and in the tailpipe of Haynes' car. Haynes noticed the bright orange compound but could not get local police interested in investigating. She called at least a dozen times, but police suggested that she take her car to a car wash and suggested that the chemicals might be cocaine.
When Haynes found the compound on her mailbox, she complained again to police, who told her to call the Postal Service. Postal inspectors arrested Bond, saying that Bond tried to poison Haynes at least 24 times between 2006 and 2007.
“The state of Pennsylvania exercised its prosecutorial discretion not to pursue this matter,” Bond's lawyer said.
But a federal grand jury indicted her on two counts of possessing and using a chemical weapon, applying a federal anti-terrorism law.
Bond pleaded guilty and was given six years in prison.
A couple of justices were very critical of government prosecutors for choosing to prosecute Bond using the chemical weapons law. “If you told ordinary people that you were going to prosecute Ms. Bond for using a chemical weapon, they would be flabbergasted,” Justice Samuel Alito said. “It's so far outside of the ordinary meaning of the word.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy said it “seems unimaginable that you would bring this prosecution.”
Justices went down a long list of everyday items that could be prosecuted under the law since they could cause harm to humans or animals, including the use of kerosene, matches, performance-enhancing drugs used in sports, and even vinegar — which would poison goldfish if introduced to a fishbowl. Alito later drove home his point by saying under the law, even innocent, ordinary actions could become questionable if the government's power is not limited.
“Would it shock you if I told you that a few days ago my wife and I distributed toxic chemicals to a great number of children?” he said to laughter from the courtroom. “On Halloween, we gave them chocolate bars. Chocolate is poison to dogs, so it's a toxic chemical under the chemical weapons” law.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli assured Alito he would probably get away with it, but warned the issue was no joke and said justices shouldn't get involved in trying to decide what treaty terms mean.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Big break in trooper ambush probe: suspect’s abandoned SUV
- Police: Suspect Frein in Pa. trooper ambush ‘extremely dangerous’
- Manchin, Toomey to seek greater flexibility for veterans’ career counselors
- Comcast cuts showings of anti-pigeon shooting commercial featuring Barker
- ‘Racy’ emails could stay hidden under Pennsylvania open records law
- Police: Barracks ambush suspect sought mass murder
- Police: Drunk prowler stole only Altoona couple’s candy
- Pennsylvania medical marijuana supporters hold Capitol rally
- Poll: Likely voters strongly back Wolf for Pa. gov
- Activist spotlights nation’s food waste with Pa. stop
- Newborn born to Philly woman fatally wounded by stray bullet dies