Chemical Conviction

10th Amendment challenge

Carol Anne Bond, a Pennsylvania microbiologist, did not just get mad when she found out that her husband had impregnated her best friend. She repeatedly tried to get even, spreading poison on her friend’s mailbox and car. This soap opera plot is the unlikely back story of the latest case requiring the U.S. Supreme Court to apply the 10th Amendment, which bars the federal government from exercising powers “reserved to the states.”

Instead of facing state aggravated assault charges, which probably would have sent her to prison for somewhere between three and 25 months, Bond was convicted of violating the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention and sentenced to six years in federal prison. She appealed the conviction, arguing that it unconstitutionally impinged on state authority. In February the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the question of whether a criminal defendant can mount such a 10th Amendment challenge.

Judging from their questions and comments, most of the justices seem inclined to give Bond her day in court. “Your underlying premise,” Justice Anthony Kennedy told one government lawyer, “is that the individual has no interest in whether or not the State has surrendered its powers to the federal government, and I just don’t think the Constitution was framed on that theory.” 

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