Lisa Knopp has known condemned Nebraska inmate Carey Dean Moore for 23 years.
On Thursday over the noon hour she stood in front of the governor's mansion with about 30 other death penalty opponents showing their disapproval of Nebraska's scheduled execution of Moore.
She carried a sign: "We remember the victims but not with more killing."
She didn't want to elaborate on Moore's decision to stop fighting his execution, scheduled for Aug. 14, but she did say that the entire time she's known him he's been weary of the process, exhausted by it.
Moore, who killed two Omaha cab drivers in the summer of 1979, has been on death row 38 years. He has told the Nebraska Supreme Court to dismiss his attorneys, that he doesn't want anyone to file anything on his behalf.
But Knopp is morally opposed to state executions, and said Moore's death would be difficult for her even if she didn't know him so well.
"He's one of the most amazing letter writers. There's so much personality in his letters and I'll miss them," she said.
They started exchanging letters those many years ago because, after meeting him in a group visit with Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty, she told him she would help find him a pastor to come and see him in prison.
"I didn't want a pen pal, but I had one ... just so very warm and personable. I found him to be just very likeable," Knopp said.
And she also visited him at times.
Change and redemption, she said, can happen to anyone, anytime and anyplace.
"And this is just a sterling example of that, somebody who can change utterly," she said.
Fran Kaye and several others have been coming faithfully every weekday to the mansion for the past couple of weeks, even in the pouring rain, Kaye said. The vigils will continue over the noon hour until the scheduled execution.
She's realistic enough to know these protests alone aren't going to stop an execution.
"But it's important that we recognize in the future when we come back to this that there have always been people who opposed this," Kaye said. "This is not something that nobody thought about, there were plenty of voices saying that this is wrong and should not be done."
The group also wants to embarrass Gov. Pete Ricketts, she said. It was "obscene," she said, for him to "buy" with his own money the votes of people who were not educated about the state killing people.
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Kaye said she knows what the men on death row did was wrong. Nobody disagrees with that. And she doesn't believe anyone on Nebraska's death row is innocent.
But why tell people not to kill and then sanction killing them if they do? she said. That would be like teaching children not to hit, but then hitting them if they do.
"There are much better ways of showing that this is wrong," she said.
Mechelle Sky Walker also attended the vigil. She has been an activist for about 20 years, since she was a sophomore in high school and had long-time death penalty opponent Richard Hargesheimer for a history teacher at Lincoln High School.
It's a humanistic belief, she said, that we were all born good, and then life happened. But people can return to that goodness.
"An eye for an eye doesn't work because then we're all blind," she said. "That's why ... a lot of religious beliefs talk about forgiveness."
A vigil also is planned for the day the execution at 5 p.m. on the north side of the Capitol.