After five gripping seasons, the Dutton family’s body count continues to rise on the hit TV series “Yellowstone.” But where do they hide the bodies? Among the many locations within the Yellowstone universe, none is as intriguing or sinister as the infamous “train station.” A place where characters like Rip Wheeler and Lloyd Pierce have been known to dispose of their adversaries under the shroud of darkness. But did you know that this eerie setting, while fictional, is inspired by a real-life legal conundrum known as the “Zone of Death”?
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“Yellowstone,” created by Taylor Sheridan, has become a powerhouse in the world of television since its debut in 2018. With spinoffs like “1883” and “1923,” and the upcoming series featuring Matthew McConaughey, the show’s universe has expanded considerably. Yet, it’s the “train station” that has left audiences both captivated and perplexed. But what is the “train station,” and how does it relate to the real world?
The Fictional “Train Station”:
In the Yellowstone series, the “train station” is located somewhere along the Montana-Wyoming border. It’s portrayed as a desolate place devoid of people, law enforcement, or any witnesses, making it the perfect spot for characters to commit nefarious deeds without fear of consequences. From the first season onwards, it’s been a recurring setting where bodies have been disposed of, often under the cover of night.
The Real-Life Inspiration: “The Zone of Death”:
Surprisingly, the fictional “train station” in Yellowstone has its roots in a very real place known as the “Zone of Death.” However, the actual “Zone of Death” is situated within the Idaho section of Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone’s vast expanse spans three states: Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. Due to this unique geographical arrangement, the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming is the sole district court with jurisdiction over the entire park.
This legal peculiarity creates a gray area in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone. The Yellowstone Park Act grants the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over the park, rendering state law inapplicable. It’s within this context that the “Zone of Death” was conceived.
The Perfect Crime?
Michigan State University law professor Brian C. Kalt first brought attention to this legal anomaly in his essay titled “The Perfect Crime.” He theorized that, due to the Sixth Amendment’s requirement for a trial by an impartial jury from the state and district where the crime occurred, the uninhabited Zone of Death in Idaho’s Yellowstone might be the only place in the United States where someone could theoretically commit murder and escape legal consequences. The absence of a local jury and the unique jurisdictional challenges of Yellowstone National Park create a legal puzzle that Kalt brought to light.
Legal Loophole in Fiction and Reality:
While no reported murders or crimes have exploited this legal loophole in the real world, it has captured the imagination of authors and filmmakers alike. Yellowstone is just one example of how this unique legal situation has been woven into popular culture. In C.J. Box’s novel “Free Fire” and the mockumentary film “Population Zero,” the concept of the “Zone of Death” played a prominent role, further emphasizing the legal enigma.
Despite the legal attention it has garnered, the “Zone of Death” remains unresolved in both our world and the world of television. Lawmakers have struggled to address the Sixth Amendment issue, and jurisdictional changes in Yellowstone National Park seem unlikely in the near future.
While the Dutton family’s exploits in the “train station” are confined to our TV screens, the very real “Zone of Death” continues to be a captivating and unsettling part of legal history within Yellowstone National Park. Whether in fiction or reality, the idea of a place where one might commit the “perfect crime” remains a tantalizing enigma.