Is This Woman a War Criminal or a Regular Old Jilted Wife?

An October 5, 2013 photo shows the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The US Supreme Court looked set October 8, 2013 to let individuals give as much money as they want in elections, which President Barack Obama has said could push politics even further into the hands of the rich. Three years after its historic Citizens United decision upended America's campaign finance system, the highest court in the land is hearing a case that, if approved, will allow more cash to flood into presidential and other election races. US laws currently impose restrictions on how much an individual can contribute to any single candidate, as well as the total amount of donations in a given election cycle. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Finally, a Supreme Court case that can keep my attention: NPR reports that today the highest court in the land hears the 2005 case of Philadelphia suburbanite Carol Anne Bond, who discovered that her husband had impregnated her best friend, and then attempted to poison said best friend. Bond was subsequently convicted under a chemical weapons treaty.

Using chemicals stolen from the chemical manufacturing company where she worked, Bond mixed a compound that can be lethal in small amounts — and is bright orange in color — and put it in her ex-BFF’s mail. The mistress easily noticed the powder (she suffered only a thumb burn), and complained to police, who took no action. But her mailman alerted the the Postal Service, which had videotaped Bond spreading the chemicals on 24 different occasions. The federal government convicted Bond under the chemical weapons treaty, and she was sentenced to six years in prison, three times the sentence she would have received if the state had pursued the case. Bond appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the treaty is unconstitutional because it violates states’ rights to prosecute simple assault. 

The government, however, says the treaty was enacted to ban a variety of uses of chemical weapons outside of war. “If Mrs. Bond's actions had ended up killing the victim, or killing a postal worker, or killing the victim's child, I don't think anybody would dispute that this was an appropriate use of this convention," said former State Department legal adviser John Bellinger. 

Bond's lawyer, former solicitor general Paul Clement, begs to differ. “Nation states conduct war. They don't poison their husband's lover. [...] I think you could tell 100 people on the street what Ms. Bond did here,” he told NPR, and none of those people would determine that Bond "deployed a chemical weapon." He says his client is “peaceful” by the international law standards recognized in the treaty.