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Old 03-07-2017, 11:15 PM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
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I can murder someone in Yellowstone and I can't be tried for it?

This seems totally unbelievable but I thought I'd ask.

Due To a Legal Loophole, There’s a Murder Zone in Yellowstone National Park.

Quote:
As a national park, Yellowstone is federal land and as such falls under federal jurisdiction which means crimes committed there are dealt with in a certain manner. Article III of the Constitution requires criminal trials to be held in the state where the crime was committed and Sixth Amendment entitles a defendant of a federal crime the right to a trial by jury from the state and district it was committed in. The only problem with all this is that Yellowstone park stretches across parts of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, and Congress put the entirety of the park under Wyoming’s federal district.

That means there’s an uninhabited 50 square mile portion of the park that falls outside Wyoming state lines and makes it quite literally the wild west. Since the area falls under federal jurisdiction, crimes committed in the dead zone that are serious enough to warrant a trial by jury would be impossible since it’s uninhabited Idaho land that technically falls under Wyoming’s jurisdiction.

Kalt told Vice that before he published his paper back in 2004, he sent copies to lawmakers with simple suggestions on how to close the loophole but to this day, there still hasn’t been anything done to fix the problem. Responses have varied from general “it’s not so simple, we’re looking into it” type responses to some lawmakers insisting any serious crimes committed in the area would still fall under the state’s jurisdiction despite evidence to the contrary.

So for now, there’s still a little spot in the wilds of Wyoming (err… Idaho technically) that you can witness the majesty of nature, reconnect with the indomitable spirit of man, and probably get away with murder.
Eagerly awaiting a definitive reply. There are a few people I know that I feel could benefit from a trip to Yellowstone with me.

Last edited by aldiboronti; 03-07-2017 at 11:16 PM.
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Old 03-07-2017, 11:28 PM
digs digs is offline
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Originally Posted by aldiboronti View Post
Eagerly awaiting a definitive reply. There are a few people I know that I feel could benefit from a trip to Yellowstone with me.
You never thought I'd read that post, did you, Aldi? Well, yeah, turns out I'm a Doper! AND I'm going to be busy next weekend -- get someone else to go on your "backpacking trip". Who's next on your list, bub?

"C'mon, it'll be fun. Let's share the majesty of the wild!"... yeah, right.
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Old 03-07-2017, 11:45 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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The law that was quoted says "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to forbid the service in the park of any civil or criminal process of any court having jurisdiction in the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming." That seems to close any loopholes to me.
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Old 03-08-2017, 03:38 AM
Isilder Isilder is offline
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It was always a dead claim. Such an Act does not override the constitution, so if the Act was in conflict with constitution, then the constitution would be the guiding principle.

It doesn't make sense to say that they couldn't be prosecuted because of the constitution. if the constitution says the trial had to occur in state X, with a jury from state X, then state X has full criminal jurisdiction. Federal acts simply cannot move the criminal jurisdiction from one state to another, hence the reason that the issue is even handled carefully to say the federal district is taken to be Wyoming. Whatever can be moved to Wyoming federal courts is hence moved to wyoming federal courts. This certainly does not say that the any part of the park is changed from being Montana or Idaho to being Wyoming, it just says the court to attend for federal matters (subject to the constitution) is the Wyoming court ! That court will still consider the state borders with the idea of there being the Montana portion and the Idaho portion. The change is that the case runs in Wyoming.

Last edited by Isilder; 03-08-2017 at 03:40 AM.
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Old 03-08-2017, 05:38 AM
Darren Garrison Darren Garrison is offline
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You can potentially kill someone in Yellowstone and not get tried for it by disappearing the body in one of those hot tubs from hell they have there, because nobody is going to find it later.
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Old 03-08-2017, 05:54 AM
bob++ bob++ is offline
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This ranks alongside the "fact" that in Chester (or Hereford), a person is permitted to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow, as long as they are inside the city walls after midnight.

I wonder if other countries have this kind of urban legend that says that under some circumstances and in a particular place, murder, would be legal?

Last edited by bob++; 03-08-2017 at 05:55 AM.
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Old 03-08-2017, 06:39 AM
coremelt coremelt is offline
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Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
This ranks alongside the "fact" that in Chester (or Hereford), a person is permitted to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow, as long as they are inside the city walls after midnight.
This isn't an urban legend, it's an actual issue that has been written about in a paper by a law professor:
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers....ract_id=691642

Now the people above might be right that there's no real issue and Wyoming would do the trial, I have no idea, but at least one law professor thinks congress should bother to take action to "close the loophole".
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Old 03-08-2017, 08:22 AM
friedo friedo is offline
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Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
This ranks alongside the "fact" that in Chester (or Hereford), a person is permitted to shoot a Welshman with a bow and arrow, as long as they are inside the city walls after midnight.

I wonder if other countries have this kind of urban legend that says that under some circumstances and in a particular place, murder, would be legal?
There's a bit of a difference between a urban legends about elephant leash laws and an actual scholarly article about a jurisdictional oversight published in a law journal.
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Old 03-08-2017, 08:35 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Originally Posted by Isilder View Post
It was always a dead claim. Such an Act does not override the constitution, so if the Act was in conflict with constitution, then the constitution would be the guiding principle.

....
I see what you did there, but I'm wondering if that's a term of art.
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Old 03-08-2017, 08:37 AM
Pleonast Pleonast is offline
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I'm not seeing what the problem with Yellowstone is. There are many circumstances where both the Feds and a state can try a person for crimes arising from a single action. After negotiating who goes first, they try the person according to their own procedures in their own courts.
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Old 03-08-2017, 08:41 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
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Read up on Cary Staner.
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Old 03-08-2017, 09:03 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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How would you die if you "fell" into Old Faithful?
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:27 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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The law professor is making an unstated assumption that the Sixth Amendment's reference to "an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed" necessarily means that the individual jurors must all live in both the district and the state. I see no authority for that interpretation.

In other words, it seems to me that the Amendment would be satisfied by trial in the District of Wyoming before a jury selected from a pool of jurors drawn from both the state of Idaho and the district of Wyoming.
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:32 AM
Saint Cad Saint Cad is online now
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Why would the Idaho jurors have to live within the boundaries of Yellowstone? In every state I've lived in a juror can come from anywhere in the county.
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:39 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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In Federal court, jurors typically have to come from the Federal district in which the trial is being held. Wyoming, Idaho and Montana are not very populous states, and thus each constitutes a single Federal district:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United...ict_of_Wyoming
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United...trict_of_Idaho
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United...ict_of_Montana
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:40 AM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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The notion that there could be a "murder zone" is ludicrous and clearly not the intent of any legislation. The law professor is hairsplitting into a ridiculous conclusion.

In actual fact, there have been murders in Yellowstone. The courts dealt with it. I don't have the time/energy to research a bunch of cites for this but I'm sure it could be googled or whatever.
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:40 AM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
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So you are accused of murder that took place in the Montana section of the park. You could file a motion that the case be transferred to Montana District Court, if it was granted, you have waived any objection to the prosecution in that Court, since it was your idea. They could find jurors from Montana, so the 6th amendment isn't a problem. Article III of the Constitution only requires " such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed," so no problem there since you're in Montana for your trial. The only problem, if there is one, is the statute that says all of the park is part of the Wyoming District. You could argue that that law is unconstitutional as applied to you, and it would not be enforced. So, you're going to get tried in Montana.



You could make a motion to dismiss, claiming no District Court could properly hear your case. That motion would be denied. Judges are not completely result driven, but there is no way they wouldn't find an argument that allows your prosecution.
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:44 AM
friedo friedo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Tildrum View Post
The law professor is making an unstated assumption that the Sixth Amendment's reference to "an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed" necessarily means that the individual jurors must all live in both the district and the state. I see no authority for that interpretation.
Read up on the Vicinage clause. The jurors do have to come from the federal district that is trying the case and the state where the crime occurred. (The district of Wyoming being the only federal district that overlaps a state border, the last part is usually moot).

The Wikipedia article actually mentions Kalt's Yellowstone argument and provides some analysis.
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:47 AM
friedo friedo is offline
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Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
The notion that there could be a "murder zone" is ludicrous and clearly not the intent of any legislation.
No kidding.

Quote:
The law professor is hairsplitting into a ridiculous conclusion.
That's what law professors do. It's kinda their job.

Quote:
In actual fact, there have been murders in Yellowstone.
In actual fact, have there been murders committed in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone?

Last edited by friedo; 03-08-2017 at 10:48 AM.
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:09 AM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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That latter bit I don't know - I don't happen to have access to my copy of Death in Yellowstone at the moment otherwise I'd look there.
  #21  
Old 03-08-2017, 11:10 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
The law that was quoted says "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to forbid the service in the park of any civil or criminal process of any court having jurisdiction in the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming." That seems to close any loopholes to me.
Service of process =/= prosecution.
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Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
I'm not seeing what the problem with Yellowstone is. There are many circumstances where both the Feds and a state can try a person for crimes arising from a single action. After negotiating who goes first, they try the person according to their own procedures in their own courts.
National parks are federal enclaves and state courts have no jurisdiction to hear cases arising in them. You are thinking of situations where the state and federal governments have concurrent jurisdiction, like the murder of a federal employee.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
The notion that there could be a "murder zone" is ludicrous and clearly not the intent of any legislation. The law professor is hairsplitting into a ridiculous conclusion.

In actual fact, there have been murders in Yellowstone. The courts dealt with it. I don't have the time/energy to research a bunch of cites for this but I'm sure it could be googled or whatever.
"I haven't actually looked this up, but it sounds ridiculous so I disagree" is not a very GQ answer. Read Kalt's paper. It's quite convincing. Kalt is not talking about all of Yellowstone. He is talking strictly about the 50 square miles that fall within the boundaries of Idaho, but for obscure historical reasons are part of the Wyoming federal district.
  #22  
Old 03-08-2017, 11:20 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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Originally Posted by coremelt View Post
Now the people above might be right that there's no real issue and Wyoming would do the trial, I have no idea, but at least one law professor thinks congress should bother to take action to "close the loophole".
I don't know Brian Kalt but I'm going to speculate he intended his article more as amusement for its readers than as an attempt to address a serious legal issue.
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:23 AM
Velocity Velocity is online now
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This loophole sounds like a defense attorney's dream come true. Don't many lawyers actually get a kick out of winning a case based on a technicality - the more infuriating and face-palming the technicality, the better?
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:24 AM
Velocity Velocity is online now
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And if someone is foolishly hitchhiking, and the strange serial-killer vibe-ish driver is driving them towards that 50-square-mile zone.........
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:33 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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This loophole sounds like a defense attorney's dream come true. Don't many lawyers actually get a kick out of winning a case based on a technicality - the more infuriating and face-palming the technicality, the better?
I can only speak for myself, and my practice is civil rather than criminal, but I'd never recommend taking a case to trial if our only defenses are technical ones. Judges don't like ruling based on hyper-technical arguments; they prefer to be able to rule consistent with both the spirit and the letter of the law.
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:35 AM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
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You never thought I'd read that post, did you, Aldi? Well, yeah, turns out I'm a Doper! AND I'm going to be busy next weekend -- get someone else to go on your "backpacking trip". Who's next on your list, bub?

"C'mon, it'll be fun. Let's share the majesty of the wild!"... yeah, right.
Damn!. Nothing could have been further from my thoughts but if you won't come I'll be thinking of you as I push the next on the list off the top of the cliff sit peacefully admiring the grand vista before me.
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:52 AM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is offline
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Read up on the Vicinage clause. The jurors do have to come from the federal district that is trying the case and the state where the crime occurred. (The district of Wyoming being the only federal district that overlaps a state border, the last part is usually moot).
I would say instead that there is case law in which a jury drawn solely from the district in which the case was tried was found to be sufficient to satisfy the Vicinage Clause, without establishing that it is necessary (simply because the question has not yet arisen).
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Old 03-08-2017, 12:36 PM
Pleonast Pleonast is offline
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National parks are federal enclaves and state courts have no jurisdiction to hear cases arising in them.
None at all? So if in my state "mopery" is a misdemeanor and "aggravated mopery" is a felony, but neither are federal offences, I can commit them flagrantly in my local National Park without fear of prosecution? Or, do federal courts have jurisdiction over state crimes in a National Park? How do appeals work?
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Old 03-08-2017, 12:44 PM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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You can potentially kill someone in Yellowstone and not get tried for it by disappearing the body in one of those hot tubs from hell they have there, because nobody is going to find it later.

No. The Law does not require a corpse for a murder conviction.

List of murder convictions without a body
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Old 03-08-2017, 01:15 PM
Skara_Brae Skara_Brae is online now
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No. The Law does not require a corpse for a murder conviction.

List of murder convictions without a body
Yes, but there are plenty of people who just "disappear." Plenty of people have died from exposure after getting lost while hiking, or were attacked by bears, or fell into acidic pools, etc. If no bodies are found, it could be hard to prove it wasn't an accident.

There are a surprising number of ways to die in Yellowstone.
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Old 03-08-2017, 01:23 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is offline
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In actual fact, have there been murders committed in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone?

I tried to Google it, but the only results I kept getting back were related to the "murder zone".


So now I know not to vacation with the wife in Yellowstone.
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Old 03-08-2017, 01:35 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Originally Posted by Pleonast View Post
None at all? So if in my state "mopery" is a misdemeanor and "aggravated mopery" is a felony, but neither are federal offences, I can commit them flagrantly in my local National Park without fear of prosecution? Or, do federal courts have jurisdiction over state crimes in a National Park? How do appeals work?
Yes to the first question, except in California, which reserved some jurisdiction over its parks when it ceded the land to the federal government. Only federal law applies in other national parks; they're like the District of Columbia except without municipal laws.

There are no "state crimes" in a national park, so nobody has jurisdiction over such crimes.

Appeals work as they do elsewhere in the federal system; there is an appeal as a matter of right to the applicable federal circuit, plus a discretionary appeal to SCOTUS.
  #33  
Old 03-08-2017, 01:39 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is online now
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There are a surprising number of ways to die in Yellowstone.
I hear there are a million ways to die in the west.
  #34  
Old 03-08-2017, 07:18 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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My usual answer to this loophole is that that sliver of land is not, in fact, unpopulated. It's just unpopulated by humans. So you just find twelve grizzly bears living in that sliver of land, and empanel them.

"Your honor, we find the defendant guilty by virtue of looking delicious."
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Old 03-08-2017, 07:28 PM
friedo friedo is offline
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My usual answer to this loophole is that that sliver of land is not, in fact, unpopulated. It's just unpopulated by humans. So you just find twelve grizzly bears living in that sliver of land, and empanel them.

"Your honor, we find the defendant guilty by virtue of looking delicious."
I think you might have grounds for appeal on the basis that a panel of grizzly bears does not constitute a jury of your peers.
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Old 03-08-2017, 07:51 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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I think you might have grounds for appeal on the basis that a panel of grizzly bears does not constitute a jury of your peers.
Yeah. In some instances it might be a jury of your betters.
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Old 03-08-2017, 07:57 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
My usual answer to this loophole is that that sliver of land is not, in fact, unpopulated. It's just unpopulated by humans. So you just find twelve grizzly bears living in that sliver of land, and empanel them.

"Your honor, we find the defendant guilty by virtue of looking delicious."
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Originally Posted by friedo View Post
I think you might have grounds for appeal on the basis that a panel of grizzly bears does not constitute a jury of your peers.
True. But if the appellate court doesn't hear the appeal until after the jury has had lunch it may be moot.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 03-08-2017 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 03-08-2017, 09:43 PM
UltraVires UltraVires is offline
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Eagerly awaiting a definitive reply. There are a few people I know that I feel could benefit from a trip to Yellowstone with me.
Like most things in law, there is no definitive reply. Suppose in 2010 you asked, "Is same sex marriage a right granted by the Constitution?" You would have read a bunch of arguments about it and finally the answer turned out to be "Yes" as five learned Justices on the Supreme Court believed it was while only four learned Justices believed it was not.

This question is a similar one that has compelling arguments on each side, many of which have been raised in this thread.
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:51 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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I think you might have grounds for appeal on the basis that a panel of grizzly bears does not constitute a jury of your peers.
And what about their Second Amendment rights? Do you support the right to arm bears?
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Old 03-08-2017, 10:58 PM
coremelt coremelt is offline
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I don't know Brian Kalt but I'm going to speculate he intended his article more as amusement for its readers than as an attempt to address a serious legal issue.
Well it seems Kalt has actually written to members of congress seriously suggesting that congress takes action to solve this so I'm guessing it wasn't just for amusement.
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:02 PM
Isamu Isamu is offline
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Wouldn't it be relatively easy to get a writ of mandamus stating that the matter had to be heard in "x" state?
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:31 PM
friedo friedo is offline
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And what about their Second Amendment rights? Do you support the right to arm bears?
Arms don't kill people, bearclaws do. From heart disease.
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Old 03-09-2017, 02:43 AM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is offline
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Am I correct in thinking that the boundaries of a federal court district wouldn't be subject to the ex post facto clause? If so, the worst case scenario is that Congress has to move the crime scene into the district of Idaho or Montana. Having to rely on Congress moving quickly isn't an ideal position for the prosecutor to be in, but it's not an impossible one.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 03-09-2017 at 02:47 AM.
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Old 03-09-2017, 08:35 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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The ex post facto clause addresses the criminalization of conduct that was legal before, not a change in the boundaries of a court's jurisdiction. No reasonable person would believe that murder was OK in any part of a national park.
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Old 03-09-2017, 10:13 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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The ex post facto clause prohibits retroactive application of any substantive change in the law. While venue is a strictly procedural issue in a sense, the composition of the jury is a substantive one, so I'm not sure the question is as clear cut as "the defendant knew he wasn't allowed to murder people."
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Wouldn't it be relatively easy to get a writ of mandamus stating that the matter had to be heard in "x" state?
On what grounds? The Sixth Amendment strictly limits the venue. A writ of mandamus directs an official to do something the law requires them to do. You can't get a writ requiring an official to do something the law prohibits.

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 03-09-2017 at 10:15 AM.
  #46  
Old 03-09-2017, 10:46 AM
drewder drewder is offline
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Nobody is saying that committing murder is legal in the 50 mile strip, mearly that prosecuting the crime is impossible since the government lacks the ability to call a jury that passes constitutional muster.
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Old 03-09-2017, 01:23 PM
SamuelA SamuelA is offline
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What makes this different from committing a murder on an airliner or ship with a U.S. flag (or on the International Space Station)? In all those cases, it's a Federal crime, and the prosecution just chooses a court to prosecute you in (doesn't have to be one where you live) and goes from there.
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Old 03-09-2017, 02:10 PM
Morbo Morbo is offline
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Read up on Cary Staner.
That was Yosemite.
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Old 03-09-2017, 02:28 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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What makes this different from committing a murder on an airliner or ship with a U.S. flag (or on the International Space Station)? In all those cases, it's a Federal crime, and the prosecution just chooses a court to prosecute you in (doesn't have to be one where you live) and goes from there.
What makes it different is that ships, planes and space stations aren't within a state.
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Originally Posted by Sixth Amendment
The trial of all crimes (except in cases of impeachment, and in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia when on actual service in the time of war, or public danger,) shall be by an impartial jury of freeholders of the vicinage, with the requisite of unanimity for conviction, the right of challenge, and other accustomed requisites . . . . [B]ut if a crime be committed in a place in the possession of an enemy, or in which an insurrection may prevail, the indictment and trial may by law be authorized in some other place within the same State; and if it be committed in a place not within a state, the indictment and trial may be at such place or places as the law may have directed.
In other words, Congress gets to decide where crimes aboard ship (or in US territories) are tried. But Idaho is a state, so Congress can't modify the express directive contained in the Sixth Amendment.

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 03-09-2017 at 02:29 PM.
  #50  
Old 03-09-2017, 02:33 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is offline
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Unless you're a flag-fringer, you know that what's "legal" is what "the government is gonna do." Step back a moment: do you genuinely, honestly think that if someone were murdered in that stretch of Yellowstone, the government would shrug their collective shoulders and say, "nice one, go free good buddy"?

Of course they wouldn't. Worst case, this might present a mild headache to the prosecutors; but there's zero chance that they'd let a killer go on a loophole like this.

It comes across very much like a natural law citizen (or whatever those folks call themselves) argument, unless it's simply pointing out an amusing wrinkle in the law that would, again, present a mild headache to prosecutors.
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