In what sounds like a thought-provoking hypothetical question from Reddit or Quora has become a real-life court case. A prisoner was serving out a life sentence when he died and had to be “brought back to life.” The inmate argues that he has served his life sentence and should be released from prison.
Benjamin Schreiber had been convicted of first-degree murder in 1997 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Then in March of 2015, Schreiber was rushed from Iowa State Penitentiary to a local hospital. The inmate was suffering from large kidney stones that developed into septic poisoning, according to court records.
While being transported to the hospital, Schreiber’s alleges that suit his heart stopped five times. He was unconscious when he arrived at the hospital.
He was revived five times during his emergency trip. Once he arrived at the hospital, doctors administered resuscitation fluids through an IV, which saved his life.
Benjamin Schreiber filed a lawsuit in April 2018, that alleges that he should be freed from prison because he “served his life sentence.”
The lawsuit points out that Schreiber had a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order, meaning that the prisoner did not want to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or other life-saving measures if his heart stopped beating.
The lawsuit also alleges that Schreiber’s brother was contacted over the phone when the inmate was admitted into the hospital. The prisoner’s brother instructed the hospital that Benjamin could receive medicine for his pain, but they were explicitly told to not revive him if he died.
Schreiber was revived and then underwent surgery to repair the damage done by the kidney stones. Soon enough, he was healthy enough to be brought back to Iowa State Penitentiary to finish his life sentence.
Schreiber and his legal team claimed that he died in the hospital and that his DNR order was not respected. He was supposed to die if the hospital honored his DNR wishes. It is not his fault that he is alive, it is the medical staff’s meddling that kept him alive. The lawsuit proclaims that Benjamin effectively served his “life” sentence. What a genius idea.
The lawsuit claims that his sentence was “life,” not “life plus one day.” He claims his “death” means that he served his life sentence, and has overstayed his prison time by four years. This argument is like how Jon Snow got out of serving in the Night’s Watch.
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The first court that heard Schreiber’s case called it “unpersuasive and without merit.” Schreiber appealed, but on Wednesday, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision. The appellate court ruled that the medical examiner had not declared him to be legally dead; thus he never fulfilled his life sentence.
The judge added that the convicted murderer is living and breathing and standing before her, so he still must go to prison. “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 court of appeals opinion.
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The district court did not address Schreiber’s complaint that the hospital violated Schreiber’s DNR order. Since the district court did not rule on “do not resuscitate” request, then the appeals court could not rule on it.
Kudos for this clever gentleman for even attempting to get out of jail on this interesting technicality that will cause much debate.
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