Thanks to advances in technology, it is nearly impossible for a person to get away with murder nowadays. That is, unless they commit the heinous act in the “Zone of Death,” a remote area in Yellowstone National Park where anyone can apparently get away with murder — even after confessing the crime.
This discovery was made by Brian Kalt, a Professor of law at Michigan State University. In 2004, Kalt was looking for interesting material for a paper when he stumbled across the judicial “no man’s land.” Because Yellowstone National Park geographically covers three US states — and only one has legal jurisdiction over the entirety of it, it is “virtually impossible” to get a murderer on trial.
Most of Yellowstone is in Wyoming, but small parts fall in Idaho and Montana. While that doesn’t mean much to the average person, it opens up a very big loophole for criminals. Kalt recognized that under Article III of the United States Constitution, federal criminals are required to be held in the state in which the crime was committed. But according to the Sixth Amendment, a criminal defendant has the right to a trial by jurors living in the state where the crime was committed. As a result, it would be nearly impossible to convict an individual who committed a crime in the 50-square-mile uninhabited area of the park in Idaho, according to Kalt.
The lawyer told VICE Magazine:
“The more I dug into it, the more interested I got. People have this fascination with uncovering a loophole for the perfect crime. There are a lot of different approaches to it. But in terms of geography, there’s just this one spot.”
Kalt had, indeed, found the perfect subject matter for his article. There was only one problem: he feared the “wrong” person would benefit from his finding and commit a murder in the zone. To prevent this from occurring, the Professor published a paper and sent copies to the Department of Justice, the US attorney in Wyoming and the House and Senate judiciary committees. As Oddity Central reports, his home was they would close the loophole, making his article a “what might have been” type of story.
Kalt was so ambitious for the Yellowstone Zone of Death to be erased, that the drafted legislation language in his letters. Reportedly, it was three lines long and suggested dividing Yellowstone into three federal districts. Each of the states would get jurisdiction of the portions that fell on their land. Surprisingly, no action has been taken as of yet. “I naively thought that once Congress found out about this, they’d think it was a problem worth fixing and they’d fix it,” said Kalt. “But nothing happens in Washington just because it’s a good idea.”
US judiciary authorities may have ignored the law Professor, but the media quickly scooped up the story. NPR, the Washington Post, the BBC and even Japanese news outlets published content on the Zone of Death. Fortunately, no one has tested Kalt’s finding — as far as we know. Even if they did, they would likely find themselves in jail sooner or later. This is because the entire murder would need to be orchestrated in Yellowstone, otherwise, the perpetrator could be charged with “conspiracy to murder” in another district. The person could also face civil lawsuits, like getting sued by relatives of the victim.
“All of these things reduce the incentive,” said Kalt. “It becomes harder to imagine someone relying on my theory and getting away with it.”
However, if authorities don’t do anything, the likelihood of somebody doing something regrettable in the zone increases. “I’m less concerned about the odds than the stakes,” the law Professor concluded. “I don’t think something is likely to happen, but it would be really bad if it did. If Congress really wanted to fix this, it wouldn’t take long at all. The problem isn’t that it’s complicated; it’s that they’re not interested in it.”
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