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An Iowa judge on Wednesday rejected an appeal from a convicted murderer who argued that because he suffered a medical emergency in 2015—and died momentarily—he therefore already completed his life-sentence and since then has been unjustly held behind bars over the past four years.
Benjamin Schreiber, 66, was rushed from the Iowa State Penitentiary to the hospital in 2015 after large kidney stones caused him to develop septic poisoning, according to court records. Schreiber – who had been convicted of first-degree murder in 1997 and sentenced to life without parole – was unconscious by the time he arrived to the hospital, the Des Moines Register reported.
He had signed a “do not resuscitate” order years earlier. Hospital staff also 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,” court documents said. Doctors instead administered resuscitation fluids through an IV and performed life-saving surgery to repair the damage caused by the kidney stones.
Schreiber filed for post-conviction relief April 2018, claiming that he died momentarily at the hospital and therefore finished his life sentenced. He said in court documents that he was sentenced to life behind bars “but not to life plus one day.” A district court rejected his request for release, writing that his argument was “unpersuasive and without merit.”
The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld that decision Wednesday. “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.
Neither court addressed Schreiber’s additional claim that his due process rights were violated when doctors ignored his “do not resuscitate” order, the Register reported.