DES MOINES, Iowa – A man convicted of murder was rushed from the Iowa State Penitentiary to a hospital in 2015 where his heart was restarted five times.
He claims his life sentence was fulfilled by his short-lived death, and he has overstayed his prison time by four years.
Benjamin Schreiber, found guilty of first-degree murder in 1997 and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole, was hospitalized in March 2015 after large kidney stones caused him to develop septic poisoning, according to court records.
By the time he arrived at the hospital, he was unconscious, records show.
Though Schreiber signed a “do not resuscitate” agreement years earlier, medical staff called his brother in Texas who told them, “If he is in pain, you may give him something to ease the pain, but otherwise you are to let him pass,” according to court records.
Doctors proceeded to save his life by administering resuscitation fluids through an IV. Then he underwent surgery to fix the damage done by the kidney stones.
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Schreiber filed for post-conviction relief in April 2018, claiming that because he momentarily died at the hospital, he fulfilled his life sentence and should be freed immediately.
He was sentenced to life without parole “but not to life plus one day,” Schreiber argued in court, records show.
The district court denied Schreiber’s request, writing that it found his claim “unpersuasive and without merit.”
The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision Wednesday, agreeing that Schreiber’s sentence isn’t up until a medical examiner declares he is deceased.
“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.
The district court did not address Schreiber’s additional claim that his due process rights were violated when the doctors failed to follow his “do not resuscitate” request, court records show. The court of appeals said in its ruling that it could not address the matter either as a lower court had not made any judgment on it.
Schreiber’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Follow Anna Spoerre on Twitter at @annaspoerre.
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