IF YOU are going to be impregnated by your best friend’s husband, better if that friend isn’t a microbiologist. That is the lesson Myrlinda Haynes of Norristown, Pennsylvania learned when a vengeful Carol Anne Bond tried to injure her at least two dozen times by spreading caustic chemicals on her car door, doorknob and mailbox. According to the Economist. In all but one of the incidents, Ms Haynes avoided harm: the bright-orange potassium dichromate and the arsenic compound were easy to spot. Her only physical suffering was a minor chemical burn on her thumb, which she treated by rinsing her hand in water.
No one doubts that Ms Bond behaved badly. But she is not the sort of threat American lawmakers had in mind when they passed the the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998, under which Ms Bond was charged with two counts of possessing and using a chemical weapon. In Bond v United States, the Supreme Court considered whether this law “deal[ing] with crimes of deadly seriousness” extended to “a purely local crime: an amateur attempt by a jilted wife to injure her husband’s lover.”
According to the broad but unambiguous definition of “chemical weapon” spelled out in the law, Justice Scalia argued, Ms Bond was indeed a practitioner of chemical warfare. This is cause to strike down the law, not to reinterpret it, he said. The majority’s approach, Justice Scalia charged, is “result-driven antitextualism” that “befogs” the law and promises to “bedevil our jurisprudence” with years of litigation. “The ‘detergent under the kitchen sink’ and ‘the stain remover in the laundry room’ are apparently out,” Justice Scalia wrote, “but what if they are deployed to poison a neighbourhood water fountain?