My Life Sentence is Served because I Died?

(Last Updated On: November 8, 2019)

A very clever attorney made this argument recently for an inmate who claims he was resuscitated against his will.

He was not the first to make this argument. The appellate court, just as in the prior cases, decided against him, stating that he is either alive or he is dead. Holding that if he is alive he must serve out his sentence and if he is dead his appeal is moot.

Another way to state this is that finding for the appellant in this case would create an absurd contradictory result that contradicts the intent of the sentence. If would defeat the entire intent of the criminal law.

A momentary stopping of your heart does not mean that you are dead.

In this case the justices did not have to go with the absurd result argument because death can be clearly defined.

Whether or not life is defined, the judge can easily define death. It can be defined as a permanent condition where the heart ceases to beat, the brain activity ceases, and bodies living activities cease beyond the ability to restore.

Defining life is a lot more complex and difficult. They have tried to do that with the abortion cases. It is just way more complicated. Although this man’s life clearly has not ended if he is still living even though certain individual characteristics of life may have temporarily stopped such as his heart may have stopped beating. I could just see inmates facing life sentences or even shorter sentences scrambling to get a hold of drugs that would create the temporary cessation of their heart so that they could be rushed to receive medical care to resuscitate them and then file to be freed and claim they have served their sentence, if this inmates argument had prevailed.

PALMER TAKEAWAY: When you are attempting to make an argument that you want the judge to adopt look for the simple one that achieves your goal.