A melodramatic love triangle begat a ham-handed revenge poisoning. That led to what one Supreme Court justice called an “unimaginable” federal prosecution of the scorned wife under a law enacted to implement a global chemical weapons treaty.As long as the victim didn't actually die, it's just some kind of joke?
Now, there is a problem with the feds taking over this prosecution, and that should be the focus of the story about this case. But you should see how outrageous it is to diminish the criminal behavior in this gendered fashion.
Carol Anne Bond, a Pennsylvania microbiologist... ordered a rare blend of chemicals, partly off the Internet, and over the next several months tried to poison [Myrlinda] Haynes 24 times by putting them on her doorknob, car and, critically, mailbox.Just some nutty lady's bumbling parry in a cat fight?
Federal prosecutors charged Bond with violating the 1998 Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, a law based on the chemical weapons ban treaty that is signed by all but four of the world’s nations.The problem here is not the unseriousness of attempted murder. It's that murder is traditionally left to the states, and the federal government is — at least theoretically — a government of limited, enumerated powers. With this important constitutional principle at stake, Bond is represented by the great ex-Solicitor General Paul Clement:
Clement... said that if the law implementing the treaty “really does reach every malicious use of chemicals anywhere in the nation, as the government insists,” then it violates the “bedrock principle of our federalist system that Congress lacks a general police power to criminalize conduct” that does not have distinctly federal concern....
[Justice Elena Kagan] said the treaty gave Congress the power to pass implementing legislation. “So you have to find a constraint on the treaty power. Where does it come from?” she demanded.Writing tip for Barnes: If you've already got "ham-handed," don't use "hamstringing." Too much ham.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor worried about the courts hamstringing efforts to deal with terrorism.
“It would be deeply ironic that we have expended so much energy criticizing Syria, when if this court were now to declare that our joining or creating legislation to implement the treaty was unconstitutional,” she said.Now, we're getting to the real meat of it. The government was represented by the current Solicitor General, Donald B. Verrilli Jr.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who posed no questions to Clement, asked Verrilli if it would be possible for the president to join a treaty that gives national governments all powers and for Congress then to put in place such legislation.Yes, it truly is. It's easy to see Kennedy's point: The federal government shouldn't have chosen to prosecute this case. But it did, and now what? It's easy to think: The central government needs ample power to do everything that might need to be done at a national level and it should refrain from using that power to deal with matters that are better left to the states.
When Verrilli said that would be unimaginable, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy shot back: “It also seems unimaginable that you would bring this prosecution.”
That led the conservative justices — plus Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who usually sides with the liberals — to unleash a barrage of hypotheticals of what could be prosecuted under the broad law, which covers chemicals that could harm humans or animals: a wheelbarrow full of kerosene; a poisoned potato given to a horse; the performance-enhancing drugs allegedly used by cyclist Lance Armstrong.
“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?” Alito asked Verrilli, drawing laughter from the court’s spectators. He explained that chocolate Halloween candy is “poison to dogs, so it’s a toxic chemical” under the act.
Verrilli chafed, saying, “This is serious business.”
But it doesn't refrain.