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Inmate Claimed His Life Sentence Ended When He Died and Was Revived

Benjamin Schreiber is very much alive. But that hasn’t stopped him from arguing that he died four years ago. After the convicted murderer collapsed in his prison cell, doctors restarted his heart five times. Recovering back at the Iowa State Penitentiary, Schreiber filed a novel legal appeal. He claimed that because he died before he was resuscitated, he had technically fulfilled his life sentence when his heart stopped. Schreiber filed for post-conviction relief, claiming that he was being held in prison illegally.

Judges, however, aren’t buying it. A district court judge wasn’t convinced by his creative attempt to find a loophole in the law, saying that Schreiber’s argument was “unpersuasive and without merit.” The fact that Schreiber was able to file a legal motion petitioning for his release, the judge added, “in itself confirms the petitioner’s current status as living.”

Dying for a brief amount of time doesn’t amount to a get-out-of-jail-free card. The Iowa Court of Appeals said that the 66-year-old will remain in prison until a medical examiner determines that he is dead for good. Judge Amanda Potterfield wrote, “Schreiber is either alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is dead, in which case this appeal is moot.”

Noting that they couldn’t find any case law that would back Schreiber’s position, the appeals court judges also ruled that he couldn’t have it both ways—claiming to be dead as far as the criminal justice system was concerned while simultaneously going on with his life.

Possible Preaching Angles:

This creative legal claim was of no help to this convicted criminal. He is bound by the law as long as he lives. In contrast, however, this is the certain hope of every believer. Because we are connected in a living way with the life, death, and resurrection of Christ we are dead and forever free from the demands of the law. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). “You are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). “Therefore, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ” (Rom. 7:4).


Antonia Noori Farzan, “An inmate claimed his life sentence ended when he died and was revived. Nice try, court rules,” The Washington Post (11-8-19)

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