Watland's cleverness had been demonstrated in other ways. In California, he had worked on computer networks, and at the Maine prison, using the library's computers, he had gained access to the prison's confidential files. In a letter to the Phoenix, Watland said he had for decades been a member of Mensa, the high-IQ association.

In the federal case, he is accused of killing Mark Baker with a homemade knife or shank while the victim played cards. A prison video exists, which reputedly shows the act. Sources say Watland's federally financed attorneys plan a kill-or-be-killed defense. Baker has been described as a member of the Nazi Low Riders gang, an ally of the white-supremacist Aryan Brotherhood.

According to court documents, aggravating factors justifying the death penalty include, prosecutors say, Watland's previous murder conviction, his "continuing danger" to others, "low potential for rehabilitation," his "lack of remorse," and an alleged attempt to threaten the lives of "the minor child and other relatives of potential witnesses."

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, in mid-2012 there were 29 federal prisoners awaiting trial or on trial on capital charges, and at the present there are 59 on death row.

But since 1963, only three people have been executed by the federal government, including, in 2001, Timothy McVeigh, the right-wing extremist who killed 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City federal-building bombing.

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  Topics: This Just In , Gary Watland, Maine State Prison, death penalty
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