Yellowstone National Park contains a 50-square mile "zone of death" where, legal scholars suggest, a person could commit murder without fear of prosecution. This zone is the part of the park that extends into Idaho.
The reason for this free-pass-for-murder lies with the Sixth Amendment which guarantees a defendant the right to a trial by a jury "of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed." The zone is in the State of Idaho, but because of the unique legal status of Yellowstone, it's in the judicial District of Wyoming. Therefore, to prosecute anyone a court would need to form a jury of people who live simultaneously in the State of Idaho and the District of Wyoming, and no one fits that bill because no one lives in the Idaho part of Yellowstone. Without being able to create a jury, a trial couldn't proceed.
A similar zone exists in the part of Yellowstone that extends into Montana. However, a few people live there, so a jury could, in theory, be formed from its residents.
This legal loophole was first pointed out in 2005 by Brian Kalt, a professor at Michigan State Law School, in an article published in the Georgetown Law Journal. Kalt urged Congress to pass legislation to fix the loophole before someone tested the loophole by committing murder in the death zone. The simplest fix, he proposed, would be to change the district lines so that the part of Yellowstone in Idaho would be included in the District of Idaho.
To date, Congress has not done anything to fix the problem. Part of the reason for this is political inertia. But there's also resistance to changing the District lines because this would place part of Yellowstone under the jurisdiction of the more liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which, it's feared, environmentalists could use to their advantage. So the "zone of death" remains.
The idea of a legal "zone of death" has naturally appealed to the imaginations of artists. The zone was featured in a best-selling mystery novel, Free Fire, by CJ Box. And in 2016 it became the subject of a film, Population Zero (trailer below).
January 1973: Texas State Rep. Jim Kaster filed a bill that would have required criminals to give their victims twenty-four hours notice before they committed a crime. Argued Kaster, "Obviously the criminal is not going to do it, but this would be another punishment that could be added to the penalty." No surprise, the bill was defeated.
When George Albert Wyld of Australia died on January 23, 1911, his will instructed that his estate should be left to his children, but when they had all died it should then be applied to:
"the maintenance of a maternity home to be known as the Wyld Home, and to be available to the extent of its means to young women who have erred for the first time, but under no circumstances for the second occasion."
Wyld's children all passed away by 1949, at which time the executors of his estate applied the remaining money to an "institution superintended by Miss Cocks" adjoining the Methodist Home for Girls at Brighton.
Wyld had five children, but had never married any of their mothers. This probably had something to do with his unusual bequest.
Jackson, Mississippi. 1966: Rev. Dennis McDonald, being a new preacher in town, visited local residents with his two sons to invite them to his church. But he was shocked (shocked!) when he paid a visit to Mrs. Pendergrass and found her sunbathing outside in her birthday suit. Naturally he had to report her to the police, who fined her $50.
But Mrs. Pendergrass appealed the fine, and the court took her side, noting that a) she was on her own property, not in public; and b) if the minister was so shocked, why did he hang around at her house for 45 minutes?
After Wayne Anthony Evans was pulled over for speeding by a Seattle police officer, a paring knife was found in his pocket, and he was arrested for possession of a fixed-blade knife. In his defense, Evans argued that the Seattle municipal code banning fixed-blade knifes violated his constitutional right to bear arms.
Not so, the Washington Supreme Court recently decided. It didn't consider the constitutionality of the municipal code itself, but (looking narrowly at the facts of this specific case) decided that there was no historical evidence that paring knives are "arms." Therefore, they can be banned.
we hold that not all knives are constitutionally protected arms and that Evans does not demonstrate that his paring knife is an "arm" as defined under our state or federal constitution.
If Evans had been carrying a bayonet, perhaps the outcome of the case would have been different.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.