Zone of Death: The Perfect Crime

By RodneyHatfieldJr for Creepy

I can not tell you how many novels, short stories, and flash fiction I have read that revolved around the concept of the perfect crime. And yet I discovered it, not in a story but in a law periodical. 

There is a 50 square mile stretch of Yellowstone National Park that crosses over Idaho’s border. And this 50-mile piece of land is a legal No-Man’s Land. It’s an isolated spot, one devoid of roads or any permanent human inhabitants. What makes it this legal enigma is missing legislation to allow people to be charged with serious crimes. Let’s go over this oopsy doodle in the law.


This particular loophole has to do with the US Constitutions Sixth Amendment, which dictates that a jury must be comprised of people from the state and federal district where the crime was committed. This 50-mile portion of Yellowstone is in Idaho and the park itself lies within the jurisdiction of Wyoming. What that means is a jury for a crime committed there would have to come from people who both live in Idaho and fall under Wyoming’s federal jurisdiction.

This stipulation would make it impossible to form a jury. This uninhabited part of the park is a unique place to satisfy such criteria. One has to remember that Yellowstone is federal land, the individual states involved maintaining no legal jurisdiction to amend the issue.


I read about this from a paper published by Brian Kalt, a law professor at Michigan State University. The paper was published in Georgetown Law Journal called “The Perfect Crime,” in 2005. Kalt outlined the legal technicalities that subject this potentially murderous geographic anomaly on the map. He delivered copies of his work to various government authorities before it hit print, hoping someone would close the loophole. And like everything in our government, nothing happened. At the time, the loophole captured national headlines. Even after having debates in the Congress, the “Do Nothing” House members have yet to take any action. But to be fair, it’s only been 16 years. 


Naturally, the media dubbed the “Zone of Death.” The area garnered additional attention after it had inspired the 2008 novel Free Fire by C.J. Box, and later the 2016 horror film Population Zero. 44.3291546°, -111.0741606° The GPS coordinates lead to the Buffalo Lake campground, located within the zone so you know not to go there. And just for kicks, there is also a dormant supervolcano under the park. Yellowstone, fun for the whole family. 

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