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aw within any country can be quite complex, especially with so many juridical articles that sometimes can contradict one another and therefore allowing lawyers to find loopholes within the legal system. A very interesting case was discovered by Professor Brian C. Kalt from Michigan State University College of Law in 2004 showing that there are 50 square miles within Yellowstone National Park in which you could get away with any sort of crime.

History of the “Zone of Death”

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 before Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana joined the Union, therefore it’s considered Federal Land. As Federal Land, it is assigned to the State in which it is confined, however, unlike any district, the district of Wyoming has landed in Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone is the only piece of Federal Land that is shared between three states (Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana).

A map of Yellowstone National Park presenting the 50 square mile region presented as the “Zone of Death” part of Idaho (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In that 50 square mile region where Yellowstone is found within the state of Idaho, there is a problem as although the Federal Land is part of Wyoming, the 50 square miles belong to Idaho and this is where the problem begins. The “Zone of Death” is completely empty as no one has ever lived there. Within historical records, there is no archive of any settlers within this specific zone.

Legal Loophole

Let’s hypothetically assume that someone would commit murder within this 50 square mile zone. The criminal once caught would be taken to Wyoming to be prosecuted as within the zone there is no law enforcement and the closest to this zone would be in Wyoming. However, based on Article III/Section 2/Clause 3, the trial should be held in the state where the crime was committed, in other words, Idaho.

“Such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed.”

Quote from the U.S. Constitution ArtIII.S2.C3.1

Therefore the criminal would be taken back to Idaho and be trialed within the state, but that is still not legally correct. Based on the Sixth Amendment from within the U.S. Constitution, the trial shall be held by a judge from within the state and district where the crime was committed, meaning that 50 square mile Zone of Death.

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed”

Quote from the U.S. Constitution Sixth Amendment

In this case, the jurisdiction within Wyoming (as Yellowstone is part of the state) is contradicting with the United States Constitution. As there is no one living within the Zone of Death, nor any judge the criminal cannot be prosecuted and therefore he gets away with murder. The loophole itself and all the details of how the criminal can be defended in the U.S. Supreme Court can be found in the paper Professor Brian C. Kalt had published in 2004 entitled “The Perfect Crime”, the name of the paper itself just says everything in my opinion.

Obviously, the case would not just apply to murder, but any crime as the criminal cannot be trialed due to this loophole. Up to this date when the article is written, no one has committed any crimes within this zone, as far as law enforcement officers from Wyoming or Idaho are aware.

Although, there are many people suggesting that murder or at least a kidnapping may have occurred within the Zone of Death this year. A 22 year old by the name of Gabby Petito disappeared near the Zone of Death but within the Wyoming state on July 2021. Some people think that she may have been murdered and hidden quite well, whilst others think she had been kidnapped and taken to Mexico.

What would actually happen

Reading some of the comments of lawyers and other federal bodies on this issue, they say that the criminal would not get away with murder, but it would definitely be a very difficult court case based on this loophole. Others say that in whatever way people would go about it, there is no juridical or federal setting that would satisfy the Sixth Amendment.

In other words, the only way that you would be able to trial a person who has committed a crime within this region would be to go against the United States Constitution, and in my opinion that would fire back quite badly with a good percentage of U.S. citizens. Going against the Constitution is like going against America, it would be the most un-American thing to do.

I presume that every juridical judge is expected to use rational thinking when trailing someone for a certain crime, but he would most probably never be expected to go against the U.S. Constitution.

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