A Prisoner Who Briefly Died Argues That He’s Served His Life Sentence


What does it imply to finish a sentence of life in jail? One prisoner claims he has performed it by serving time till the second of his demise — plus one other 4 years since — and says it’s effectively previous time to set him free.

The prisoner, Benjamin Schreiber, made that argument to an appeals courtroom in Iowa, saying that when he briefly died in 2015, earlier than being revived at a hospital, he accomplished his obligation to the state. He requested the three-judge panel to let him get on along with his life.

The judges rejected his argument this week, ruling decrease courtroom had been proper to dismiss his petition.

“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 for the courtroom.

Mr. Schreiber said he was resuscitated despite his brother’s directions and his own do-not-resuscitate order on file with the Iowa Department of Corrections. The courts have not addressed whether he was wrongfully resuscitated. Mr. Schreiber’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment on Friday, and a hospital spokesman said he did not immediately have a comment.

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.”

Mr. Schreiber’s plea was not without precedent.

Jerry Rosenberg, who was convicted of murdering two New York police detectives in 1962, petitioned a court in upstate New York to let him go in 1988, arguing that he had died when his heart stopped during surgery.

The judge ruled against Mr. Rosenberg, too, writing that he did not legally die, “as his presence in this courtroom indicates,” The Associated Press reported at the time.

Eve Brensike Primus, a professor who teaches criminal law at the University of Michigan Law School, said it was unsurprising that the theory had only been tried a handful of times.

“The stars have to align — both the medical condition and the sentence the person is facing — for a person to even make this argument,” she said.

Professor Primus said that if people were considered legally dead before being resuscitated, it would create a web of problems, not just in criminal cases, but also for insurance and inheritance claims.

She and I. Glenn Cohen, a professor at Harvard Law School who studies medical ethics and the law, said Mr. Schreiber’s argument was clever but never stood a chance.

“It equivocates on what life and death means for the purposes of the criminal law,” Professor Cohen said in an email.

He added that Mr. Schreiber would still be considered alive for purposes including organ donation, making it “hard to think he should be ‘dead’ for the purpose of serving a life sentence.”



Source link Nytimes.com

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