The next time someone asks you to go camping, take an extra few minutes to think about if you’ve ever seriously wronged them. They just might be plotting their revenge.
C. J. Box’s 2007 book Free Fire tells the tale of a murderer who can’t be prosecuted for his crimes since they were committed in a legal dead zone inside Yellowstone park. What’s incredible about the plot of this book is that it’s not entirely impossible, since that dead zone actually exists and the book’s premise is based on a real paper published by a Michigan State University law professor.
The author of that paper, Brian Kalt, shed some light on this geographical legal anomaly in a recent article on Vice, and it’s surprising that nothing has ever been done about it. Those looking for the perfect place to carry out their own version of The Edge without paying for airfare to Alaska need only visit a certain part of Yellowstone. Oh boy, what a dated reference. Let’s see. Ooh! For anyone looking to reenact some of the more brutal parts of The Purge, you only need to plan a hike with your worst enemy and hope they haven’t read up on their constitutional law.
As a national park, Yellowstone is federal land and as such falls under federal jurisdiction which means crimes committed there are dealt with in a certain manner. Article III of the Constitution requires criminal trials to be held in the state where the crime was committed and Sixth Amendment entitles a defendant of a federal crime the right to a trial by jury from the state and district it was committed in. The only problem with all this is that Yellowstone park stretches across parts of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and Congress put the entirety of the park under Wyoming’s federal district.
That means there’s an uninhabited 50 square mile portion of the park that falls outside Wyoming state lines and makes it quite literally the wild west. Since the area falls under federal jurisdiction, crimes committed in the dead zone that are serious enough to warrant a trial by jury would be impossible since it’s uninhabited Idaho land that technically falls under Wyoming’s jurisdiction.
Kalt told Vice that before he published his paper back in 2004, he sent copies to lawmakers with simple suggestions on how to close the loophole but to this day, there still hasn’t been anything done to fix the problem. Responses have varied from general “it’s not so simple, we’re looking into it” type responses to some lawmakers insisting any serious crimes committed in the area would still fall under the state’s jurisdiction despite evidence to the contrary.
So for now, there’s still a little spot in the wilds of Wyoming (err… Idaho technically) that you can witness the majesty of nature, reconnected with the indomitable spirit of man, and probably get away with murder.
How would you respond if someone asked you to go there for your next vacation? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
Image: 20th Century Fox