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Man: My Life Sentence Is Done Because I've Already Died

Benjamin Schreiber's heart stopped 4 years ago, but 2 courts aren't buying his claim
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2019 7:30 AM CST
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An Iowa appeals court has rejected Benjamin Schreiber's claim.   (Getty Images/Darrin Klimek)

(Newser) – A prisoner in Iowa serving a life sentence for murder says he has fulfilled that life sentence and should be released—because he "died" in 2015 while in the hospital, meaning the life that his original life sentence was based on ended four years ago. The Des Moines Register reports that Benjamin Schreiber was sentenced in 1997 to life without parole after being found guilty of first-degree murder. Per court records cited by the Washington Post, the now-66-year-old developed kidney stones in March 2015 so big they "caused him to urinate internally" and led to septic poisoning. He slipped into unconsciousness and was rushed to the hospital, where, despite a "do not resuscitate" order he'd signed, he was resuscitated five times with "adrenaline/epinephrine via an IV."

In April 2018, Schreiber filed for post-conviction relief, claiming that because his heart had stopped three years earlier, his life had technically expired and he should be set free. "Nice try" is how the Post describes the response of both the district court that initially called his claim "unpersuasive and without merit," and of the Iowa Court of Appeals, which agreed with the original court ruling Wednesday. It stated that the correct interpretation of the law is that Schreiber should have "to stay in prison for the rest of his natural life, regardless of whether he was resuscitated against his wishes in 2015." "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," Judge Amanda Potterfield wrote in the ruling. It's not clear if Schreiber will keep the fight going. (Read more life sentence stories.)

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