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Prisoner Who ‘Died’ And Got Brought Back To Life Argued His Life Sentence Had Ended

Credit: Iowa State Penitentiary & Alamy

A prisoner who ‘died’ and then got brought back to life argued that his life sentence had ended. 

Over the years, many stories of inmates have gone viral, particularly those on death row.

There’s the inmate who confessed to a horrific crime in a chilling letter days before his execution, and the killer who used his final words to send a hidden three-word message to his family.

And now there’s another story about an inmate facing a life sentence, who argued that as he had temporarily ‘died’, it was over.

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Benjamin Edward Schreiber was a convicted murderer.

He was found guilty of first-degree murder – without the possibility of parole – for the mid-1990s killing of John Terry, who was bludgeoned to death with an axe handle.

Years after his sentencing, in March 2015, Schreiber developed large kidney stones and was hospitalised with septic poisoning, as per CNN.

He passed out in his cell at Iowa State Penitentiary.

Schreiber was then rushed to hospital and his heart reportedly had to be restarted five times using an IV containing ‘adrenaline/epinephrine’ by medical staff.

This was in spite of a ‘do not resuscitate’ order which had been put in place years earlier, according to The Des Moines Register.

Benjamin Edward Schreiber
Benjamin Schreiber argued that his life sentence was over. Credit: Iowa State Penitentiary

The filing says that medics contacted his brother in Texas when Schreiber was initially submitted to the hospital and he reportedly told them: “If he is in pain, you may give him something to ease the pain, but otherwise you are to let him pass.”

Schreiber ended up undergoing surgery to repair the damage to his kidneys and was also treated for septic shock with antibiotics.

Eventually, he recovered.

The prisoner applied for post-conviction relief in April 2018.

Schreiber claimed that when his heart stopped, he had technically died and therefore, his life sentence should be over.

A judge declined Schreiber’s request to be made free in 2019, branding his claim ‘unpersuasive and without merit’.

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At the time, Judge Amanda Potterfield stated: “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.”

While court documents say: “Petitioner asserts that he ‘died’ on March 30, 2015, and as a result of such ‘death’ he has now served the life sentence and should be released from custody.

“The court finds this assertion unpersuasive and without merit. Nothing in the record supports [the] petitioner’s claims.

“The petitioner’s filing of these proceedings in itself confirms the petitioner’s current status as living.”

Schreiber’s additional claim that his due process rights were violated when the doctors failed to follow his ‘do not resuscitate’ request was not addressed by the district court.

Due to this, the courts of appeal said it could not address it either in its ruling.

Schreiber died ‘due to natural causes’ in April 2023 in a hospital in Fort Dodge, Iowa, according to his online obituary.

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Written by Aimee Walker

Aimee is a senior content editor at IGV who specialises in finding the best original stories, trending topics and entertainment news. She graduated from Birmingham City University with a degree in Media and Communications.