Can Someone Really Get Away With Murder in Yellowstone’s Zone of Death?
If someone you're really not on good terms with randomly invites you on a trip to Yellowstone National Park, you might want to say "Thanks" but "No Thanks".
Before we start unpacking all of this, please understand I am in no way attempting to educate anyone about how to get away with murder. There are still other ways authorities can possibly prosecute someone for crimes committed in the "Zone of Death" as we'll chat about about in a bit. I'm bringing this up because you've probably been hearing about it due to the Gabby Petito disappearance, and I want you to know what's true and factual.
Have you ever heard of a place in Yellowstone National Park called the "Zone of Death"? Allegedly, because of legal loophole, it might be possible for someone to commit felonies, even murder, and get away with it.
As the missing persons case of YouTuber Gabby Petito began to capture the nation's attention, the "Zone of Death" had many internet sleuths linking Petito's disappearance to the mysterious spot in Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone Zone Of Death Loophole
The "Zone of Death" is a 50 square mile strip of land in Yellowstone National Park that because of "a purported loophole in the Constitution of the United States, a criminal could theoretically avoid prosecution for any major crime, up to and including murder" according to wikipedia.com.
This 50 square mile strip of Yellowstone extends past the Wyoming border into Idaho.
If someone is arrested for committing a crime this strip of land, because the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming has legal jurisdiction over all of Yellowstone National Park, the person or persons arrested would be transported to the the federal courthouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
This is where things get interesting.
The Sixth Amendment states that "juries in federal criminal cases must be made up of citizens who are from both the district and state where the crime was committed."
Even though the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming has jurisdiction over Yellowstone Nation Park, the crime would actually be committed in Idaho.
What this means is, if a crime is committed in the "Zone of Death", Wyoming is out, Idaho is in.
The problem? No one lives in this area of Idaho. Literally no one. This makes assembling a "jury of one's peers" from the district and state the crime was committed is an impossibility.
As you see in the photo above from Vox, there's also a strip of Montana inside of Yellowstone National Park, but apparently there are enough people living in that area to make a jury, should there ever need to be one.
If someone does happen to get away with committing a crime in the "Zone of Death", there a few other ways they could still be convicted. One possible charge could be "Conspiracy to Commit Murder" in which the accused would be tried in their home state and district where presumably the aforementioned crime took place.
Brian Kalt, Law professor and author of "The Perfect Murder" which first brought the "Zone of Death" to everyone's attention also states via quora.com -
"I am the author of the original theory, which you can download here: The Perfect Crime. In the article, I consider some limitations to the theory and some reasons why courts might not accept it, but the short answer is that we don’t know what a court would do if it actually considered the issue.
They would also be able to put you in jail for up to 6 months on lesser charges—Class B misdemeanors and below do not carry a right to a jury trial with them, so the loophole doesn’t exist there."
Has Anyone Ever Been Murdered In The "Zone Of Death"?
Thankfully no, as far as anyone knows. In fact, no felony crimes have been committed in the "Zone of Death", or at least none that have ever been discovered.
Is it actually "legal" to commit murder in the "Zone of Death" and get away with it?
Probably not, but no one is actually 100% sure. The "Zone of Death" legal loophole theory has never been put to the test. "Probably not" isn't the way you wanted that answer to begin huh?
Hopefully it never will be.