Yellowstone's 'Zone Of Death': You Can Get Away With Murder In Idaho Because Officials Refuse To Close Loophole

Tara West

There is a small 50 square-mile area of Yellowstone National Park where a person could legally get away with murder due to an unusual loophole in federal policy. Despite being informed of the potentially deadly loophole, Congress has repeatedly declined to take any action to rectify the issue.

The aptly named "Zone of Death" in Yellowstone National Park is located in a small portion of the national park that spills over into Idaho. Vice reports that the "Zone of Death" gained national attention when Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt wrote a 14-page paper in the Georgetown Law Journal called "The Perfect Crime." In the research paper, Kalt noted that he stumbled across a small portion of Yellowstone National Park that had sloppy jurisdictional boundaries, which could result in the state and federal government's inability to prosecute major crimes, such as murder, taking place in the small area.

— Jacob (@biosshadow) August 12, 2016

— Lucas Witherspoon (@LucasLascivious) July 7, 2016

"Kalt knew that Article III of the Constitution requires federal criminal trials to be held in the state in which the crime was committed."
"The Sixth Amendment entitles a federal criminal defendant to a trial by jurors living in the state and district where the crime was committed. But if someone committed a crime in the uninhabited Idaho portion of Yellowstone, Kalt surmised, it would be impossible to form a jury."
"And being federal land, the state would have no jurisdiction. Here was a clear constitutional provision enabling criminal immunity in 50 square miles of America's oldest national park."
"It would be a simple fix, Kalt wrote, for Congress to divide Yellowstone into three federal districts—the Idaho portion going to Idaho, the Montana portion to Montana, and the Wyoming portion to Wyoming. He even drafted the legislation language. It was three lines long."

Kalt does point out that a crime in the uninhabited location would be difficult to commit, as the area has no roads and is only accessible via hiking. He notes that the person could not pre-plan the murder, or they could be tried in state of which they planned out the deadly deed, and that if any portion of the murder took place in another state, the person could be tried there.

— B Walker (@SlowNeutron) March 14, 2015

The area became a cult phenomena back in 2007 when suspense novelist C.J. Cox based a book, Free Fire, on the area showcasing the legal conundrum that would be presented should someone commit murder in the isolated area.

What do you think about Yellowstone's "Zone of Death?" Will federal officials wait until the "perfect crime" is committed to take action?

[Image via Shutterstock]

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