There's A Section Of Yellowstone Park Where You Can Get Away With Murder

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People go to Yellowstone National Park for many different reasons, but it's safe to say murder isn't one of them.

But as it turns out there's a 50 square mile section of Yellowstone where the jurisdictional boundaries grow a bit blurry, a place where people could conceivably get away with murder.

Like all national parks, Yellowstone is federal land. Portions of it fall in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, but Congress placed the entire park in Wyoming's federal district. It's the only federal court district in the country that crosses state lines.

(Image via Annie Vainshtein)

This is purely theoretical, of course, and when Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt proposed the concept in his 14-page article "The Perfect Crime" he feared someone might test his theory:

Kalt knew that Article III of the Constitution requires federal criminal trials to be held in the state in which the crime was committed. And 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.

So he immediately sent a copy to the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney in Wyoming, and the House and Senate judiciary committees, and you know what they did?

They told Brian they'd wait and see if the issue ever came up, and according to Idaho senator Jim Risch "This is all very romantic and a great fictional thing," he said, "but I'm telling you, the states have jurisdiction." Except this statute seems to state otherwise...

Read There's A Section of Yellowstone Where You Can Get Away With Murder here


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I only read the first couple of pages of the original dissertation. It sounds like a key factor is that Yellowstone was a federal park before the surrounding territories became states. When they entered the Union, they ceded jurisdiction of their parts of the park.
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This story isn't true, and several law enforcement agencies have weighed in on it already. Sorry, but there is no "free zone" that isn't covered by state and/or federal law in the United States.
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