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U.S. top court tosses woman's chemical weapons conviction

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the federal government wrongly used a chemical weapons law to prosecute a Pennsylvania microbiologist convicted of trying to poison her husband's pregnant lover.

On a unanimous vote, the court handed a win to Carol Anne Bond, who admitted trying to poison her former friend, Myrlinda Haynes, with toxic chemicals she took from work. Bond sprinkled lethal compounds on Haynes's mailbox, car door handles and house doorknob between November 2006 and June 2007.

The court did not resolve a broader question regarding whether the chemical weapons law raises concerns about the power of Congress to enact domestic laws that apply international treaties the U.S. government has signed.

Bond, of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to six years in prison after entering a guilty plea that gave her a right to appeal.

The poison burned Haynes's thumb, but she was otherwise unharmed. Bond, who has no children, hatched her plan after finding out that Haynes was pregnant and her husband was the father.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote on behalf of the court that the law in question did not cover Bond's conduct, which he described as a "simple assault."

There is no indication Congress meant the statute to reach local criminal conduct, Roberts wrote. He noted, for example, that the chemicals used by Bond "are not of the sort that an ordinary person would associate with instruments of chemical warfare."

Although the nine justices were unanimous on the outcome, they were divided over the rationale, with three of Roberts' fellow conservatives writing separate opinions.

The case is Bond v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-158.

(Editing by Howard Goller and Jonathan Oatis)

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