A Sticky Legal Case of Murder on Ice

An island named T-3, informally called called Fletcher's Ice Island, is an anomaly because it was never an island at all. It was an iceberg that had calved off an Arctic glacier in the 1950s. Since it was so big -11 kilometers long and five kilometers wide- the US Air Force put an airstrip and a research station on it. The station was manned by mostly civilian contractors, who lived in trailers and huts and whiled away the long Arctic winters by drinking and fighting. It was in this strange environment that Mario Escamilla shot station director Bennie Lightsy under stressful circumstances in 1970. Was it murder or manslaughter or an accident? Before that could be determined, the question of jurisdiction had to be settled.

The research station on T-3 was run by the Air Force, but the men involved were civilians. The place where it happened wasn't claimed by any nation, because it wasn't land. The Arctic Ocean isn't the property of any country. Canada didn't want the case. Escamilla was seized by going through the US airbase at Thule, in Greenland, which is owned by Denmark, who didn't want the case either. Would maritime laws apply? T-3 wasn't an island, but it wasn't a ship, either. Read about the many problems of jurisdiction for this case, and how it was eventually resolved, at Today I Found Out.

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