Amazing Places

You Can Get Away With Murder In Yellowstone's "Zone of Death"

From an early age, we learn the laws of our land. If you commit a crime, you have to accept the consequences. But what if crime without consequence actually existed, and it's buried in a loophole of the U.S. Constitution? Yellowstone National Park primarily spans Wyoming, but it also extends to slivers of Montana and Idaho. In a section of that small sliver in Idaho lies the "Zone of Death." Here, you could potentially get away with murder. Sound sensational? Hear us out...

Yellowstone is federal land, and it existed before Wyoming, Montana, or Idaho joined the union. As Vox explains, Federal land is typically split into its state's district courts, but Yellowstone is a special case. In his 2005 Georgetown Law Journal article, "The Perfect Crime," Michigan State law professor Brian C. Kalt points out that Yellowstone was put fully under Wyoming's district court, even though portions of the park fall onto two other states. So what happens if you commit a crime in the 50-square-mile area of Yellowstone that lies in Idaho? Because you were technically in Wyoming's jurisdiction, the courts would send you to Cheyenne, Wyoming. However, the Constitution states that trials must take place in the state in which you committed the crime. A murderer could potentially evoke their right for a trial in Idaho, refusing to be tried in Cheyenne. The Sixth Amendment states that local juries are required for trials, but here's the kicker: the jury must be from the state AND the district where the crime was committed, per the "Vicinage Clause."

So, if you commit a murder in the "Zone of Death," you have the right to request a jury pool from that specific area (where the state overlaps with the district). The problem? No one lives there. There's no way for the courts to give you a trial without a jury, so Kalt argues that you should get away with committing the murder, scot-free. Kant has suggested numerous fixes to Congress to fix this deadly loophole (including simply re-drawing the district lines), but they've yet to make any changes. So for now, we wait. But don't get any ideas!

Learn more about Yellowstone National Park and this deadly loophole in the following videos.

How You Could Get Away With Murder In Yellowstone's "Zone of Death"

Explore the 50-square-mile expanse that fits in a dangerous loophole with Vox.

Getting Away With Murder

How do thousands of homicides go unsolved each year? Uncover some theories with HowStuffWorks.

Will Yellowstone explode?

Yellowstone sits on top of a super volcano, or a "caldera." Could the magestic national park explode? Find out below.

Written by Curiosity Staff November 17, 2016

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