Mayukh Saha
Mayukh Saha
April 11, 2024 ·  2 min read

A Prisoner Who Briefly ‘Died’ Argues His Life Sentence Was Served

A murderer in Iowa jail who was serving a life sentence said that his sentence had ended when his heart stopped for a short time, so he was officially “dead.” In the mid-1990s, Benjamin Schreiber was found guilty of first-degree murder for killing a man by hitting him over the head with the handle of a shovel. He said that he had successfully served his life sentence because the man had died briefly in the hospital but was brought back to life.

CNN reports that Schreiber got kidney stones and started to get sick from septic poisoning in 2015. He passed out, so he was taken from the Iowa State Penitentiary to a nearby hospital. Schreiber’s heart was brought back to life five times at the hospital after it had briefly stopped beating.

Doctors used epinephrine and adrenaline to bring him back to life. Once he was stable, they treated his sepsis and sent him back to jail. When he went to court after this, Schreiber tried to say that he should be free because he had legally died and been brought back to life, serving his life sentence.

The Des Moines Register reports that Schreiber also said he was brought back to life against his will because he had signed a “Do Not Resuscitate” order years before. He told the hospital staff, “If he is in pain, you may give him something to ease the pain, but otherwise you are to let him pass.” Schreiber’s brother was brought in.

Benjamin Schreiber
Image Credits: Iowa Department of Corrections

Appeal Dismissed: No Release for Schreiber

The court did not agree with his case, though. In a lower court, Schreiber’s case was called “unpersuasive and without merit.”

Then Schreiber took his case to the Iowa Court of Appeals, but they also didn’t agree with him.
In their decision, Justice Amanda Potterfield wrote, “We do not believe the legislature intended this provision, which sets the sentences for the most serious class of felonies under Iowa law and imposes its “harshest penalty”… to set criminal defendants free whenever medical procedures during their incarceration lead to their resuscitation by medical professionals.” One of the three judges agreed with the decision.

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