When we think of Yellowstone we think of gorgeous nature, loads of wildlife and of course geysers, but there is more than meets the eye going on here.

Photo by Nicolasintravel on Unsplash

If you plan a trip to Yellowstone be extra aware and careful near Island Park, Idaho. This is a 50 square mile stretch of Yellowstone National Park that is within the Idaho boarder. That may not seem like a big deal but it means some big things in our legal system. This is a legal no-man's land where a legal loophole makes it possible to get away with murder and other serious crimes.

Yellowstone Map, By Ryan Holliday (Wrh2), from wikimedia commons, with permission

This area is so remote there are not any real roads. Lots of animals may call it home but no people do, at least not permanently. "In all criminal prosecutions... an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law..." That is where the loop hole comes in.

Welcome to Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, which is federal land, is in the jurisdiction of Wyoming, but this section crosses over the Idaho boarder, blurring the lines of who is in charge of it. Due to this a jury for a major crime committed there would have to come from people who both live in Idaho and fall under Wyoming’s federal jurisdiction. That is not possible, especially since the area has no long standing residents.

Zone of Death in Idaho, Google maps 2017

According to Atlas Obscura, A law professor at Michigan State named Brian Kalt wrote about the legal loophole in 2005. In "The Perfect Crime" he laid out how this area is a recipe for a potentially murderous area. There is no where else that has a loophole like this in the US. Hoping that his work would spark change the professor sent copies of the paper to a few government authorities, but nothing ever changed.

The Perfect Crime, Brian Kalt

This “Zone of Death” was also featured and even inspired 'Free Fire' a 2008 novel by C.J. Box.

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If you saw the 2016 horror film Population Zero, you know that it was set in the Zone of Death also.

Population Zero Movie Poster

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