How To Get Away With Murder? @ProfBrianKalt @MSULaw @atlasobscura
Atlas Obscura discusses the fifty-mile-square area in Yellowstone National Park, which is essentially a legal free-for-all. Brian Kalt, a professor of law at Michigan State University, pointed out in a 2005 law review essay that the Sixth Amendment makes it difficult to empanel a jury to try anyone for certain crimes, though not all, committed in that area (nicknamed the “Zone of Death)”. His piece is clear and doesn’t make the claims that a lot of media that have reported on it might leave their readers inferring, such as that any crime committed in the 50-mile-square area is a freebie. More on the “Zone of Death” and legislative attempts to address it, here, from Vox.
Pop culture has adopted the “Zone of Death” idea and the possibility that it might allow people to think they could get away with murder. After all, as Professor Kalt makes reference to in the title of his essay, the perfect crime is one that real life murderers and novelists have chased forever. The fly in the ointment is that if one gets away with murder successfully, one can’t tell anyone (at least not during one’s lifetime). And if one doesn’t, then one hasn’t actually gotten away with murder (unless the jury acquits). But a Zone of Death in which one could commit murder, admit the crime, and never face consequences? Now, that’s intriguing.
See, for example, C. J. Box’s novel Free Fire (Putnam, 2007), in which ranger Joe Pickett hunts admitted mass murderer Clay McCann. McCann’s an attorney–oh, terrific. And consider the “mockumentary” Population Zero (2016), in which director Julian Pinder investigates Dwayne Nelson’s 2009 confession to having killed three people in the park. There’s also For the People’s “This is America” episode, in which yet another (criminal defense) attorney faces trial for having murdered his wife in Yellowstone Park. Why do so many pop culture criminal defense attorneys end up as criminal defendants? Is it all the expert information they acquire in their practices? Or is it self-selection?