A jury will soon decide whether an alleged prison gang leader’s documented brag that he carved his gang’s initials into the chest of the then still-breathing man proves that his murder of the man was especially heinous and may justify his execution under Arizona law. Last week, Miti Maugaotega was found guilty of first-degree murder for the killing of fellow inmate Bronson Nunuhja in an Arizona prison in 2010. Autopsy records show that Nunuha was stabbed 152 times.
Maugaotega and Nunuhja were both Hawaii prisoners held out of state because there was no room in Hawaiian correctional facilities. In Hawaii, the death penalty has been abolished. But Arizona has executed three prisoners this year and, while prisoners serving time in Arizona are subject to the state’s laws, Arizona has so far never imposed the death penalty on a prisoner originally convicted in Hawaii, Kevin Dayton reports for Honolulu Civil Beat. Now, prosecutors are urging an Arizona jury to consider whether the specifics of Nunuhja’s murder are “cruel, heinous and depraved,” creating an aggravating circumstance worthy of the death penalty under state law.