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Murderer who briefly died must still serve his life sentence, court rules

A man serving a life sentence argued that he should be released because his heart briefly stopped beating.
A man serving a life sentence argued that he should be released because his heart briefly stopped beating. Donald Tong/Pexels

Should a life sentence end when your heart stops?

An Iowa Court of Appeals says no — at least as far as convicted murderer Benjamin Schreiber is concerned.

Schreiber had argued in court that a brief brush with death should be his ticket to a new life outside of prison, in a bizarre case that has tested the definition of a “life sentence.”

Schreiber was convicted of first-degree murder in 1997. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his crime, which involved bludgeoning a man to death in a plot concocted with the victim’s girlfriend at the time, The Washington Post reports.

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Schreiber collapsed in his prison cell due to septic poisoning caused by kidney stones in 2015, the Des Moines Register Reports. Doctors rushed to his aid and restarted his heart five times, effectively bringing him back from death.

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But the 66-year-old claims that episode should be enough to fulfill his life sentence, since his life technically ended before it began again. Schreiber has argued in court that he was resuscitated against his wishes and that his life — and his sentence — should have ended with his medical death in 2015.

Schreiber’s request was denied at the district court level, which prompted him to take it to the Iowa Court of Appeals.

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“He asserts that he was sentenced to life without parole, ‘but not to life plus one day,'” Judge Amanda Potterfield wrote in her decision on Wednesday.

Potterfield said that Schreiber’s argument was not persuasive in her ruling against him.

“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,” she wrote.

Schreiber’s attorney has not commented on what his client wants to do next.