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 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.
Ms 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 Ivan Glenn Cohen, a professor at Harvard Law School who studies medical ethics and the law, said 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,” Mr Cohen said in an email.
He added that 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”.