Convicted Murderer Who ‘Died’ And Was Brought Back To Life Claims His Life Sentence Is Over

Convicted Murderer Who ‘Died’ And Was Brought Back To Life Claims His Life Sentence Is Over
Credit: Iowa Department of Corrections

In a peculiar twist of fate and law, convicted murderer Benjamin Schreiber presented an argument that seems like it’s straight out of a legal drama rather than real life. After a medical emergency in which Schreiber “died” and was subsequently resuscitated, he claimed that his life sentence should be considered served. Yes, you read that right: Schreiber, serving time for a brutal pickaxe murder in the mid-1990s, suggested that his brief encounter with death should count as fulfilling his life sentence.

During a medical episode in 2015, Schreiber suffered from severe kidney stones and septic poisoning, leading to his heart stopping multiple times. Transported from the Iowa State Penitentiary to a hospital, he was resuscitated five times, sparking his unique legal argument. Despite his claims and a “Do Not Resuscitate” order cited, the court was not swayed.

The Iowa Court of Appeals, faced with Schreiber’s novel claim, reaffirmed that life in prison means just that, regardless of any temporary departures to the afterlife. Justice Amanda Potterfield clarified that the legislative intent was not to release prisoners who experienced medical resurrections. In a rather philosophical ruling, she stated, “Schreiber is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is dead, in which case this appeal is moot.”


This case is not without precedent. Jerry Rosenberg, another convict, attempted a similar gambit in 1988, arguing his brief death during surgery absolved him of his sentence. However, the physical presence of Rosenberg in court post-incident effectively nullified his claim.

Eve Brensike Primus, a criminal law professor, highlighted the rarity and complexity of such arguments, noting the alignment of medical and legal stars necessary to even consider this defense. She also pointed out the broader implications of defining legal death in cases of resuscitation, which could ripple out into various aspects of law, including inheritance and insurance.

In the end, Schreiber’s audacious attempt to redefine life imprisonment via a medical loophole was dismissed, leaving him to continue serving his sentence until his actual death in 2023. This case remains a curious footnote in legal history, illustrating the lengths to which some will go to challenge the confines of their punishment, no matter how outlandish the argument may seem.