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Did you know: stretch of land in Yellowstone National Park where you can legally get away with murder?

According to Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt, there is a stretch of land in Yellowstone National Park where you can legally get away with murder. Kalt discovered the 50-square-mile portion of land in Idaho while researching obscure jurisdictional gray areas, and argues that within its boundaries, "one can commit felonies with impunity" in his 2005 article The Perfect Crime.

Yellowstone is federal land, like all national parks. The park is spread across Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, however 16 U.S. Code §24 places the entirety of the park "under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States." Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution requires that trials for crimes be tried by a jury and held in the state where the crimes were committed. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution requires that the jury is selected from the state and district where the crime was committed. Under 28 U.S. Code § 131, Congress placed "Wyoming and those portions of Yellowstone National Park situated in Montana and Idaho" in one judicial district - Wyoming.

Kalt's article argues that if someone commits a crime in the completely uninhabited Idaho portion of Yellowstone, it would be impossible to form a jury living in the state and district where the crime was committed, as required under the Sixth Amendment. Because the park is federal land, the state arguably has no jurisdiction.

Before publishing his article, Kalt sent copies to the Department of Justice, the U.S. attorney in Wyoming, and the House and Senate judiciary committees with a proposed legislation change to close the jurisdictional loophole by dividing Yellowstone into three federal districts. However, Congress has yet to act.

Idaho senator Jim Risch argues that the state of Idaho would have jurisdiction over a crime there (notwithstanding 16 U.S. Code §24). Wyoming senator Michael Enzi does not believe fixing the loophole through legislation can be that simple. The theory has yet to be officially tested, as the crime would need to be serious enough to entitle a defendant to a jury trial and would need to happen entirely within the park to avoid conspiracy or other related charges.

Kalt's article spurred media coverage from the Washington Post and the BBC, and author C.J. Box based his 2007 book Free Fire on the portion of land. The publisher of Free Fire brought Kalt to Wyoming in 2015 to speak about these jurisdictional consequences, however lawmakers have yet to take any official action.

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