By Benjamin Goad - 06/02/14 11:33 AM EDT
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that a woman who sought to give her husband’s mistress an uncomfortable rash could not be prosecuted under an international chemical weapons treaty.
The justices’ ruling, in Bond. v. U.S., admonished officials against bringing federal charges in local cases for which they were not intended.
The dispute centered on the case of Carol Anne Bond, a Pennsylvania microbiologist who discovered that her best friend was pregnant with her husband’s child. Seeking revenge, Bond stole various toxic chemicals from work and spread them on her former friend’s doorknob, car door and mailbox.
“It is undisputed, however, that Bond did not intend to kill Haynes,” the court said in a summary of the case’s facts. “She instead hoped that Haynes would touch the chemicals and develop an uncomfortable rash.”
Ultimately, she was successful when her target suffered a minor chemical burn.
Among the charges leveled against Bond after her arrest were two counts of possessing and using a chemical weapon, in violation of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. The treaty forbids the possession or use of chemical weapons.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts expressed incredulity that the treaty might be applied to “an amateur attempt by a jilted wife to injure her husband’s lover, which ended up causing only a minor thumb burn readily treated by rinsing with water.”
“Because our constitutional structure leaves local criminal activity primarily to the States, we have generally declined to read federal law as intruding on that responsibility, unless Congress has clearly indicated that the law should have such reach,” Roberts wrote.
“The Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act contains no such clear indication, and we accordingly conclude that it does not cover the unremarkable local offense at issue here,” he added.
Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Roberts.
Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas concurred with the ruling in separate opinions.