Yellowstone National Park: The one place in the US where murder could be legal

Greg Evans
Tuesday 24 July 2018 12:15
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Picture:(Getty Images/iStock)

In the dystopian film series The Purge, a totalitarian government has come to power in the United States and has found a unique way of restoring law and order.

For one night only, all crime including murder is legal and, wouldn't you know it, people actually go along with it.

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We can't be sure what Donald Trump might do next, but we doubt even he would pass a law like that. However, if you are American and have a bizarre craving for murder, then your luck might just be in.

Due to some sketchy jurisdictional boundaries, there is reportedly a small stretch of land in Yellowstone National Park where laws don't technically apply.

This location, which has been dubbed the 'Zone of Death,' first came to public attention in 2005 thanks to a paper from Michigan State University College of Law professor Brian C Kalt.

In the paper, which was titled 'The Perfect Crime', he points out that although most of the park covers the state of Wyoming, a small portion of it does extend across both Montana and Idaho.

However, Congress has deemed that the park is under the control of Wyoming, which seems sensible - but this is where problems start to arise.

Due to the aforementioned small area of Yellowstone which sits in Idaho, a crime could be committed that would be impossible to trial in court.

This is because, according to the sixth amendment, a federal criminal defendant has the right to trial by a "jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed".

Confused? We thought so. Take a look at this image:

Picture: Ryan Holliday (Wrh2)/WikiMedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0(Ryan Holliday (Wrh2)/WikiMedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

See that red circle? That is the spot where the crime could be committed.

If something unspeakable would happen in that spot, the trial must be held in Idaho, but the jury would have to be made up of people from Idaho and Wyoming.

Kalt adds that a sound-constitutionally-trial jury would not be possible to form as nobody lives in that area. The Montana section of Yellowstone does have a few inhabitants which would make the jury process easier.

Thankfully nobody has tested whether this loophole would actually work and even Kalt agrees that some courts might not even recognise it. In the conclusion to his paper he wrote:

First, nobody really pays much attention to vicinage. If anybody did, this gap would have been closed already, either by a court or by Congress.

The courts may or may not agree that my loophole exists, and in any case, this Essay is not intended to inspire anyone to go out and commit crimes.

Crime is bad, after all. But so is violating the Constitution. If the loophole described in this Essay does exist it should be closed, not ignored.

HT IFL Science

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