Iowa Man Claims His Life Sentence Was Served After He Died and Was Resuscitated

A prisoner serving a life sentence at the Iowa State Penitentiary was taken to a local hospital in 2015 where he had to be resuscitated five times after his heart stopped. Benjamin Schreiber was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole after being found guilty of first-degree murder in 1997.

Schreiber had been rushed to the hospital after collapsing in his cell as a result of enlarged kidney stones which caused him to be unable to urinate externally on March 30, according to court documents.

The entire case can be read here.

After being admitted to the hospital, Schreiber had to be resuscitated five times. Court documents said that Schreiber had a “do not resuscitate” order on file at the hospital where he was revived. He alleged that the order was ignored by medical professionals. Doctors at the hospital administered adrenaline and epinephrine intravenously to save Schreiber’s life. Later, he underwent surgery to repair internal damage caused by the oversized kidney stones.

He filed a post-conviction relief against the State of Iowa for his freedom in April 2018 under the pretext that because he technically died five times, he served his life sentence and spent four years too long in prison. He lost the case in district court. On Thursday, the Iowa State Court of Appeals shut Schreiber down as well.

Though it makes for a compelling case, there is a legal definition for death, according to Iowa State Statute 708.2. A person is considered dead if it is announced by a physician, a licensed physician’s assistant, a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse. That did not happen in his situation.

Judge Amanda Potterfield, additionally, maintained in the court of appeals of opinion that because Schreiber was still alive that he should remain in prison. She cited State vs. Louisell as the basis for her ruling.

Under Iowa State Statute 902.1, the punishment for a Class A felony is a life sentence. First-degree murder falls under that category. However, nowhere in the statute does it list anything concerning a prisoner “temporarily dying.”


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