Welcome to the Zone of Death

Top 5 Things You Will Learn If You Read This Whole Thing

  1. Guns N’ Roses was the shit.
  2. Idaho is known as the Gem State.
  3. Brian C. Kalt is kind of a pain in the ass.
  4. You maybe just might be able to murder someone without penalty somewhere in the United States.
  5. Our leaders know this and don’t seem too eager to do anything about it.

Good ole’ Q.F. is a big fan of GNR – Guns N’ Roses to the uninitiated.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard “Welcome to the Jungle,” back when I was a tinier Q.F. The energy of Slash’s guitar builds and builds and builds until suddenly there is Axl’s primal screen. I gotta tell ya, I was moved.

I spent much of that year wearing a top hat and sunglasses, letting my hair fall over my eyes like the bad-ass guitarist, which led to a nasty broken nose when I slammed face-first into a locker. Q.F.’s momma was not a happy camper.

GNR was that shit back in the day. When they rolled into town, you never knew what was going to happen. There was always the thought that you could wake up the morning after and your entire city would be burned to the ground, leaving you huddled under the sheets in a fetal ball while ashes smoldered around you and GNR’s tour bus tail lights faded into the distance.

Did you know there’s a place where this can actually happen?

And I’m not talking about Australia, which, as I’ve written, once went to war over a bunch of emus. I’m not talking about Africa or some frozen wasteland in Antarctica. I’m talking about right here in these United States. It’s called the Zone of Death, and if you’ve got a problem, it might be your answer.

Welcome to the Gem State

So where is this magical land where it is quite possible that bash someone’s head in with a boulder and walk away with nothing more than a sore shoulder? It’s in Idaho, land of potatoes, nutso right-wing militias and Demi Moore.

Theoretically – and I cannot stress that word enough – one could go to the 50-square-miles (that’s 129.50 kilometers-squared, for my European fans) of Yellowstone National Park that falls in the Gem State and do whatever the hell he or she pleased without fear of consequences.

Again, theoretically.

And why is this the case (theoretically)? It all goes back to our Founding Fathers and the amazingly ambiguous document they created after whooping some British ass, a document that was immediately seen as, shall we say, lacking.

Constitution Talk

If you commit a crime in a national park, you won’t be tried in any state court. The feds have jurisdiction as soon as you and your family drive that Brady Bunch station wagon into Yogi Bear country. Want to smoke some ganja in Pike’s Peak National Park? Those freedom-loving Colorado legislators might say it’s OK within their borders, but the federal government’s bummer prohibition against weed takes precedence.

The court governing this section of the United States is the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. It is the only U.S. District Court that has jurisdiction over parts of multiple states, thanks to Yellowstone National Park’s intrusion beyond Wyoming into parts of Montana and, as previously mentioned, Idaho.

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution says that juries in federal criminal cases must be made up of citizens who are from both the district and the state where the crime was committed. Thus, if you bash someone’s skull in while visiting the Idaho section of Yellowstone National Park, you would have to be tried by a jury chosen from resident of that area, and the trial would have to take place there.

And herein lie the problems.

The first problem is that there is no federal courthouse in that section of Idaho. So a jury of Idahoans (Idahos?) would technically have nowhere to meet to try your sorry head-bashing ass.

Theoretically (there’s that word again), we could all look at you and say, “Um, he’s guilty. We’re going to have this trial” and then set out some camp chairs in a nice clearing in the forest. We could even roast hot dogs and, if things went late, we could make s’mores.

But that would be unconstitutional as hell.

So just build a courthouse! Duh!

A-ha! You fool! I said problems with an s.

You could build the most majestic courthouse ever seen, could import that marble from Italy and bring in the leather for the chairs from the finest ranches in Chile. Or you could make it a double-wide. Whatever. The reality is, no matter what you built, you couldn’t have a trial there.

Why?

Because there are no people!

That’s right. Even if there were a courthouse in which to hold a trial, the jury pool is exactly zero owing to the fact that there are no residents in that section of Idaho. None. Zip. Or, as my beautiful wife, Flaca, would say: Nunca. Thus, under the Constitution those slave-holding bastards developed, you would not be able to get a fair trail and, theoretically, could not receive any legal punishment for bashing a person’s head in.

Yes, really.

This leaves us with some important questions, the first being: What psychopath put in the time and effort to discover this lovely little loophole. And for that we look to the murder mitten itself, the state of Michigan. Meet Brian C. Kalt.

In 2005, the Michigan State University law professor was researching potential flaws in the Sixth Amendment (because, evidently, that’s what educated psychopaths do). As he later wrote, “The courts may or may not agree that my loophole exists, and in any case, this Essay is not intended to inspire anyone to go out and commit crimes.”

Oh really? Because the American people, when confronted with this potential lawless wasteland, are just going to sit home and continue watching Jeopardy! to see who the new host-of-the-week is? (RIP Alex) Uh-huh. Right.

Well, whatever the inspiration barrister Kalt provided to his fellow psychopaths, the loophole was immediately closed by the federal government, so no one has anything to worry about anymore.

Except, no. That’s not what happened.

Kalt alerted the feds to this little issue and, doing a good job at not just pointing out the problem but also providing a solution, well, he provided a solution: Move the stupid arbitrary jurisdictional line and assign the Idaho section of Yellowstone to the federal court built out of potato skins.

The dude did the government’s work for them! And yet, in typical government fashion, the feds did exactly nothing.

Thus, lawlessness reigns in the Zone of Death. More than 50 people have been killed since Kalt’s paper was published in 2005, and another 15 have gone missing. Murders have been committed by those ranging in age from 7 to 85, and they have been committed in all sorts of heinous ways. Every single one of the murderers, once done with his or her dastardly deed, simply got back in the car and drove away, flying the proverbial bird out the window as the tail lights faded into the distance like a GNR tour bus.

Or…

Or nothing has happened. Well, almost nothing. A poacher once got caught by park rangers after killing an elk without being legally entitled to kill an elk. The case was settled with a plea deal.

So the reality is, we don’t really know what would happen if you bashed someone’s head in while visiting the Zone of Death. Surely the federal government would try to send you to jail, right? I mean, they would, right? Right? Yes. We’re going to say yes.

But whether they would be able to succeed is up for debate.

So let me join barrister Kalt in saying this little essay is not meant to inspire anyone to head out to Idaho with bad intentions. It’s simply to say that the founders of this country were dumb and those in charge of keeping it running are pretty dumb too.

And yet here we are, 2021, still going.

Somehow.

Q.F. Conseco is the relative of website owner and Storyteller in Chief John Agliata. He is, in fact, John’s great-grandparent’s son’s son’s son. He lives outside Escandido, California, near the Hellhole Canyon Preserve with his wife, Flaca, and their three children, Franz, Hans and Helga. All three are homeschooled and extremely unsocial. Q.F. is a singer, songwriter and poet when he is not working as a trimmer for a large medical marijuana growing operation in Humboldt County, California. He once punched an elk in the jaw.

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