Criminal Justice

Inmate tells court he fulfilled his life sentence after briefly dying

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An Iowa inmate who was revived at the hospital claims his brief death means he has fulfilled the terms of his life sentence and he should be released from prison.

The Iowa Court of Appeals rejected inmate Benjamin Schreiber’s argument in a Nov. 6 opinion. The Washington Post, the Ottumwa Courier, the New York Times and the Des Moines Register have coverage.

“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 for the court.

The second possibility is unlikely since Schreiber signed his name on court documents, Potterfield said.

Schreiber’s appeal stems from his March 2015 hospitalization for septic poisoning caused by large kidney stones. At the hospital he was resuscitated five times before doctors gave him antibiotics and performed surgery to repair organ damage, he says.

A lower court tossed the case and the court of appeals affirmed.

The court said it was interpreting “life” in the state statute in accord with its plain meaning. Lawmakers did not intend to free inmates “whenever medical procedures during their incarceration lead to their resuscitation by medical professionals,” the court said.

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