“From Your Friend, Corey Dean: Letters from Nebraska’s Death Row” by Lisa Knopp, Cascade Books, 164 pages, $21 (Paperback).
Lisa Knopp is a professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Omaha who lives in Lincoln. Her latest book of nonfiction is a summary of her 23 years of correspondence with Carey Dean Moore, who was incarcerated on death row in the Nebraska state prisons at Lincoln and Tecumseh for 38 years. Author Knopp is certainly not the first writer to sympathize with an admitted murderer awaiting execution. Truman Capote’s classic, “In Cold Blood,” is the epitome of this genre.
In August 1979, the 21-year-old Moore had shot and killed an Omaha cab driver to steal $70. A week later he had similarly murdered another Omaha cab driver with no money taken. He was soon arrested, confessed to his crimes, tried and sentenced to death in 1980. On Aug. 14, 2018, he became the most recent person to be executed in a Nebraska prison.
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Moore also became the first and only Nebraska prisoner to die by lethal injection rather than by hanging or the electric chair. His execution was the first in the United States to use fentanyl as one of the substances injected.
Any correspondence requires two individuals, and author Knopp’s life and character are candidly revealed as thoroughly as that of the prisoner. Her lifelong belief in abolishing the death penalty made her aware of Moore. However, by the end of their decades of letters, phone calls, and brief prison visits, she considered him a friend.
Moore’s conversion to fundamentalist Christianity coincided with the author’s belief system, and the book is replete with biblical quotations.
Capital punishment, like abortion, is a subject which provokes a strong opinion from virtually any citizen. Knopp supplies her honest reasons for discontinuing the practice. Ironically, Moore provides an equally compelling case for enforcement of the law since he ultimately refused any further attempt to appeal his sentence.
His description of his life in solitary confinement is both depressing and claustrophobic. However, he feared commutation to life imprisonment would cause him to be released into the general prison population, which he felt would be even less endurable. After preparing for numerous scheduled execution dates which were postponed or cancelled, he felt that certain death was preferable.
This book is recommended for readers who wish to seriously ponder whether Nebraska should continue to put criminals to death since there are still 12 people on death row.
This moral decision will inevitably become a political topic for future consideration. Knopp’s book should be read by each of the lawmakers involved.