The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared sympathetic to a microbiologist's argument that she was unfairly prosecuted under a federal law that implements the Chemical Weapons Convention after she tried to poison a romantic rival, according to reports.
The nation's top justices weighed the appeal of 42-year old Carol Ann Bond, who in 2008 pled guilty to trying to poison her husband's pregnant lover, Myrlina Haynes, with a chemical compound. Bond was charged in federal court with violating the 1998 Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act, the law the implemented the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention in the United States. She was sentenced to six years in prison and fought that conviction, arguing federal prosecutors infringed upon state authority by filing charges against her under a law created to deter the use of chemical weapons by rogue nations and terrorists.
Most of the justices appeared "downright angry" with the federal government's use of an international treaty to prosecute a woman in a domestic spat, USA Today reported. They questioned if the Chemical Weapons Convention and the law Congress passed implementing it were intended to reach to such domestic crimes or remain only applicable to wartime matters. At its core, the case is about whether Congress can use its power to implement treaties on local matters not normally applicable to federal law, according to Bloomberg.
It "seems unimaginable that you would bring this prosecution," Justice Anthony Kennedy reportedly told U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, according to the Associated Press.
Bond's attorney, former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement, referred to his client's crime consisted of "garden-variety assaults with chemicals."
Verrilli, though, argued on behalf of President Obama's administration that if its treaty power were altered, U.S. initiatives related to chemical weapons and nuclear nonproliferation could be hampered.
"There needs to be a comprehensive ban," Verrilli reportedly argued before the high court. "You can't be drawing these types of lines."
Justice Elena Kagan, meanwhile, maintained that the Chemical Weapons Convention and congressional implementation of the treaty were sound and therefore paramount, USA Today reported. If they were not, judges would "take the place of treaty-makers," she reportedly said.