A Killing in Yellowstone – *This* Close to the Perfect Crime

September 10th, 2013

Law Professor Brian Kalt wrote a fascinating book of constitutional intrigue that describes the perfect crime–committing a murder in a specific portion of Yellowstone Park. Why?

This article argues that there is a 50-square-mile swath of Idaho in which one can commit felonies with impunity. This is because of the intersection of a poorly drafted statute with a clear but neglected constitutional provision: the Sixth Amendment’s Vicinage Clause. Although lesser criminal charges and civil liability still loom, the remaining possibility of criminals going free over a needless technical failure by Congress is difficult to stomach. No criminal defendant has ever broached the subject, let alone faced the numerous (though unconvincing) counterarguments. This shows that vicinage is not taken seriously by lawyers or judges. Still, Congress should close the Idaho loophole, not pretend it does not exist.

The Chicago Tribune reports on a killing of a toddler in Yelowstone. Does this case present Kalt’s perfect crime, and a vicinage challenge? ┬áNo, alas, contrary to the dateline, the death took place in the Wyoming part of Yellowstone.

Authorities have declined to say whether investigators believe the shooting was accidental or deliberate.

The Grant Village campground in Yellowstone, which spans nearly 3,500 square miles of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, sits in the Wyoming section of the park near a developed area that contains a ranger station, lodge, shower facilities and other amenities.

So, no perfect crime here.