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15th May 2023

Prisoner who ‘died’ and was brought back to life argued his life sentence had technically finished

Steve Hopkins

He also took issue with being revived

A prisoner once argued that his life sentence had effectively been completed after his heart stopped.

Benjamin Schreiber was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in 1996, after clubbing a man to death with the handle of a pickaxe and leaving his body outside a trailer. Schreiber had conspired with the man’s girlfriend to murder him.

In 2015, Schreiber developed kidney stones and he started suffering septic poisoning.

He lost consciousness in his cell at Iowa State Penitentiary and was taken to hospital, where he died, in doctor’s care.

Schreiber was revived using a combination of epinephrine and adrenaline, his sepsis was treated and he was sent back to jail.

His attorneys then tried to argue that Schreiber had effectively completed his “life sentence” at the Iowa Court of Appeals.

They also took issue with him being brought back to life as he’d signed a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order years earlier, The Des Moines Register reported at the time.

Schreiber’s brother was reportedly at the hospital and advised medical staff, “If he is in pain, you may give him something to ease the pain, but otherwise you are to let him pass”.

The courts found against Schreiber, labelling his arguments “unpersuasive and without merit”.

A three-judge panel weighed up the case and Justice Amanda Potterfield wrote in her decision: “We do not believe the legislature intended this provision, which defines 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.”

Justice Potterfield added: “Schreiber is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is actually dead, in which case this appeal is moot.”

According to CNN, the appeals court referred to Iowa state law that said anyone who is guilty of a class A felony “must spend the rest of their natural life in prison, regardless of how long that period of time ends up being or any events occurring before the defendant’s life ends”.

Schreiber died last month ‘due to natural causes’ at Unity Point Medical Center in Fort Dodge.

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