Zone of Death (Yellowstone) UP150

The Zone of Death is the name given to the 50 sq mi (129.50 km2) Idaho section of Yellowstone National Park in which, as a result of a purported loophole in the Constitution of the United States, a criminal could theoretically get away with any crime, up to and including murder.

The United States District Court for the District of Wyoming is currently the only United States district court to have jurisdiction over parts of multiple states. This is due to the fact that its jurisdiction includes all of Yellowstone National Park, which extends slightly beyond Wyoming’s boundaries into Idaho and Montana. In addition, the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over the park, so crimes committed in the park cannot be prosecuted under any of the states’ laws.

Trials in the district court are normally held at the federal courthouse in Cheyenne, Wyoming. However, the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution decrees 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. Because of this, charges for a crime alleged to have been committed in the area of the park in Idaho would have to be tried before a jury consisting entirely of residents of that area, and the trial would also have to take place in that area. As the Idaho portion of the park has no courthouses and is uninhabited, no such jury could be assembled. Thus the defendant would be unable to have a fair trial, and could not receive legal punishment for any alleged crimes.