Friday, June 6, 2014

Weapons of Mass Destruction

The notion that some things go without saying applies to legislation just as it does to everyday life.” --SCOTUS
The written decisions of courts in the state and federal system are called “opinions.”  At the start of any opinion, there are usually numbered summary legal points, called “headnotes”.  On Monday, June 2, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Bond v. United States, 2014 LEXIS 3988 (US 2014).  Headnote #4 to that opinion reads:  “The notion that some things go without saying applies to legislation just as it does to everyday life.”

Really?  The law lives and dies by semantic and technical absurdities.  You mean there’s a limit?
The issue in Bond was the applicability of an international chemical weapons treaty to a woman scorned.  No, really.  That was the issue.

You see, the woman, who lived in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, population 16,269 (,_Pennsylvania), home of the Tuba Christmas Concert (, got mad at her husband, because he was cheating on her, and had impregnated her best friend.  So she mixed up a little chemical cocktail of arsenic and a photo-printing solution, and applied it to surfaces the Other Woman might come into contact with, like her car door, mailbox, etc.  In the hopes of killing her?  No.  In the hopes that she would develop “an uncomfortable rash”. 
The O.W. did, in fact, eventually manage to touch some of the chemical, despite the fact that it was bright orange.  The result?  A minor chemical burn on her thumb.  The medical treatment?  She had to rinse it with water. 

For this, the Feds pressed charges against the jilted wife for possession and use of a chemical weapon in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998, (18 USC 229), which was the U.S. implementation legislation for an the international Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction. 
My personal favorite line from the case:  “…the global need to prevent chemical warfare does not require the Federal Government to reach into the kitchen cupboard.”

The opinion is fun to read until you think – THIS made it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court?  This stuff happened in 2006-2007.  It’s 2014.  So for 7 or 8 years, lives have hung in the balance while the legal juggernauts duked this one out.  Even better -- this case reverses the lower court’s opinion, upholding the CONVICTION. 
Would you like a little Prosecutorial Discretion with that?

Andre Hakes
Criminal Defense Attorney
Tucker Griffin Barnes
Charlottesville, VA

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great commentary.