- Oct 27, 2017
What does it mean to complete a sentence of life in prison? One prisoner claims he has done it by serving time until the moment of his death — plus another four years since — and says it is well past time to set him free.
The prisoner, Benjamin Schreiber, made that argument to an appeals court in Iowa, saying that when he briefly died in 2015, before being revived at a hospital, he completed his obligation to the state. He asked the three-judge panel to let him get on with his life.
The judges rejected his argument this week, ruling that a lower court had been right to dismiss his petition.
Judge Potterfield wrote in the ruling this week that because “life” is not defined by the state’s code, the judges had given the term “its plain meaning,” which they took to prescribe that Mr. Schreiber must spend the rest of his natural life incarcerated, regardless of whether he had been revived.
“We do not find his argument persuasive,” Judge Potterfield wrote, adding that the judges found it unlikely the Legislature would have wanted “to set criminal defendants free whenever medical procedures during their incarceration lead to their resuscitation by medical professionals.”
A court in Iowa found that a murderer who was revived “is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is actually dead, in which case this appeal is moot.”
Well, it’s quite the try.