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  #1  
Old 23 May 2014, 11:38 AM
Steve Steve is offline
 
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Default Yellowstone has a "Zone of Death" where you can get away with murder

Let's imagine Daniel and Henry are vacationing in Yellowstone National Park, and set up camp in the 50 square miles of the park that are in Idaho (unlike most of the park, which is in Wyoming). They get into a fight and Daniel winds up killing Henry. But rather than bury the body and try to cover up the crime, Daniel freely admits to it and surrenders himself to the authorities.

At his trial, he invokes his right, under the Sixth Amendment, to a jury composed of people from the state where the murder was committed (Idaho) and from the federal district where it was committed. But here's the thing — the District of Wyoming has purview over all of Yellowstone, even the parts in Montana or Idaho. So Daniel has the right to a jury composed entirely of people living in both Idaho and the District of Wyoming — that is, people living in the Idaho part of Yellowstone. No one lives in the Idaho part of Yellowstone. A jury cannot be formed, and Daniel walks free.

http://www.vox.com/2014/5/22/5738756...-get-away-scot
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  #2  
Old 23 May 2014, 02:26 PM
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Yeah, right.

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  #3  
Old 23 May 2014, 02:39 PM
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That reads like a thought experiment that only got 2/3 the way developed.

I like the way that fiction is being used as a basis for court challenges.

Nevertheless, an interesting, if easily fixed if needed, legal situation.
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  #4  
Old 23 May 2014, 04:25 PM
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i thought it wa a jury of your peers -- not jury of residents in a local state.
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  #5  
Old 23 May 2014, 04:40 PM
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The 6th amendment says in part
Quote:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed. . .
So it's the combination of "State and district" that's the crux of the matter.
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  #6  
Old 23 May 2014, 05:29 PM
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If it came up, Congress could fix it, even after the fact. The definition of a federal judicial district is set by Congress. There are also rules for when the crime occurs in no judicial district (e.g., at sea). It would not run afoul of ex post facto because it's procedural. (A person is, generally speaking, not entitled to the rules of evidence that were in effect when the crime was committed, for example). I'm not going to search, but there may even be a federal statute that covers the situation.
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  #7  
Old 23 May 2014, 06:16 PM
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Also, the route the case would take would be trial, conviction (likely if he confessed), then appeal by the defense to various courts based on the 6th Amendment. Given how SCOTUS has often decided for law enforcement in the recent past, they could decide that phrase of the 6th is not so critical as to allow a murderer to get away with his crime. Look at how much the property portions of the 5th have been reduced via seizure rules.

erwins, would the phrase, "which district shall have been previously ascertained by law" in the 6th be previous to the crime or previous to the trial?
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Old 23 May 2014, 06:37 PM
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Well, the district would have been previously ascertained by law. It's just that Congress would change it before the trial. At that point, I think the defendant would have two options: accept the new definition so he can have a jury trial, or insist the old rule applied and be limited to a bench trial. If Congress is giving the means to have a jury trial and he doesn't accept it, I don't think he gets to go free. Since there are no people who would qualify under the old rule (assuming there's not a rule that we don't know about) it's not like the defendant is being deprived of a different, somehow better jury.
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  #9  
Old 23 May 2014, 08:30 PM
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I woulda sworn this was somewhere on Snopes a few years ago, but no can find. I've read this somewhere between two and five years ago, but apparently not here. Grrr... bad memory! Bad!
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  #10  
Old 23 May 2014, 08:41 PM
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Crius of Coh, I thought the same thing before I posted. I remember reading this somewhere, and even checking that there was an actual legal paper about it. But I couldn't find it mentioned on here.
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  #11  
Old 24 May 2014, 03:47 AM
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Wasn't this the plot of a Simpsons episode?
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  #12  
Old 26 May 2014, 10:26 AM
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He committed the crime on Federal land- that wouldn't make it Federal?
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  #13  
Old 26 May 2014, 12:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitap View Post
He committed the crime on Federal land- that wouldn't make it Federal?
As I understand it, yeah. I agree I don't see where the loophole is supposed to really be here. All the hypothetical situtation given in the OP could even begin to do was muddy the waters enough so no state could claim a clear jurisdiction, but since the entire scenario is based on the event happening on Federal land it indeed clarify completely the Federal government's jurisdiction. That no way, even on a completely hypothetical level, equates to some sort of lawless no-man's land.

From Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimina...federal_courts
Quote:
Examples of crimes that are based on areas owned by or under the exclusive control of the federal government include crimes committed in the District of Columbia, in U.S. Territories, in U.S. National Parks, in federal courthouses and federal prisons, and aboard airplanes (regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration) and ocean-going vessels. The United States military has its own criminal justice system applicable to its members, but civilians may be charged with a federal crime for acts committed on military bases. Federal courts can also assert jurisdiction to hear cases brought against U.S. citizens based on their illegal activities in other countries.

The Sixth Amendment calls for trial “by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” Within the federal court system, Rule 18 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure specifies which federal court may hear a particular criminal case:
Unless a statute or these rules permit otherwise, the government must prosecute an offense in a district where the offense was committed. The court must set the place of trial within the district with due regard for the convenience of the defendant and the witnesses, and the prompt administration of justice.
Anderson, 328 U.S., at 703 holds: “[T]he locus delicti must be determined from the nature of the crime alleged and the location of the act or acts constituting it.” In Hyde v. United States, 225 U.S. 347 (1912) although none of the defendants had entered the District of Columbia as part of their conspiracy to defraud the United States, they were convicted because one co-conspirator had committed overt acts in Columbia (225 U.S., at 363). So conspiracy is a continuing offense committed in all the districts where a co-conspirator acts on the agreement. Similarly, In re Palliser, 136 U.S. 257 (1890) the sending of letters from New York to postmasters in Connecticut in an attempt to gain postage on credit, made Connecticut, where the mail he addressed and dispatched was received, an appropriate venue (136 U.S., at 266—268). See 18 U.S.C. § 3237(a):
Any offense involving the use of the mails … is a continuing offense and … may be … prosecuted in any district from, through, or into which such … mail matter … moves.
This was applied in United States v. Johnson, 323 U.S. 273, 275 (1944) so that “an illegal use of the mails … may subject the user to prosecution in the district where he sent the goods, or in the district of their arrival, or in any intervening district.”
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  #14  
Old 26 May 2014, 12:40 PM
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I know that erwins already cleared this up, but I don't see why it being a federal case makes a difference. The 6th Amendment would still apply, and so you'd still have the impossibility of finding a jury from both the state and district in which the crime was committed. It doesn't matter who has jurisdiction (unless I'm missing something.)
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  #15  
Old 26 May 2014, 03:12 PM
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Yes. It isn't an issue of what state has jurisdiction--it's federal land, so AFAIK, federal jurisdiction. It's that the 6th amendment requires by its terms something that is (allegedly) impossible due to how the federal district is defined.
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  #16  
Old 26 May 2014, 03:50 PM
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And if the US flag in the court has fringe... or is it if it doesn't have fringe? I can't keep these wacko theories straight.
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  #17  
Old 27 May 2014, 02:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve View Post
... you'd still have the impossibility of finding a jury from both the state and district in which the crime was committed.
Okay, let's say this is true--it's currently impossible to find a jury. On the other hand, in most places, there is no statute of limitations on murder. You'd just have to wait until someone moved in (or move them in yourself) and established residence. Et voila! A jury.

Seaboe
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  #18  
Old 27 May 2014, 02:35 PM
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I should have used "supposed impossibility" since erwins showed above that it'd be possible to change the district by Congress. But your solution is to wait until people move into a national park? I think you'd be waiting a while.
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  #19  
Old 27 May 2014, 03:10 PM
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Not my solution. Just a solution. I'd drag 'em into court long before that and let them make their spurious arguments to the judge.

Seaboe
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  #20  
Old 17 August 2016, 03:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
Well, the district would have been previously ascertained by law. It's just that Congress would change it before the trial. At that point, I think the defendant would have two options: accept the new definition so he can have a jury trial, or insist the old rule applied and be limited to a bench trial. If Congress is giving the means to have a jury trial and he doesn't accept it, I don't think he gets to go free. Since there are no people who would qualify under the old rule (assuming there's not a rule that we don't know about) it's not like the defendant is being deprived of a different, somehow better jury.
I apologize for not seeing this for two years, but I only just stumbled across this.

I am the author of the original article with the theory. There is a portion that discusses this very issue. Congress cannot change the district after the crime. The Previous Ascertainment Clause ties to the time of the crime, not the time of the trial. The point is to prevent the government from manipulating district lines to disadvantage the defendant, which is exactly what they would be doing if they changed it after the fact (especially since they have had ample opportunity to redraw the district lines before the crime occurred).

The defendant also cannot be forced to have a bench trial. He can assert his right to a jury trial--there cannot be a bench trial without the defendant waiving that right. Similarly, he can assert his right to a local jury. Only he can waive that.

There is precedent supporting the notion that if the defendant cannot be given a proper jury, and he refuses to waive his rights, then the charges must be dismissed.
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