Crime & Courts

Anchorage jail inmate dies after assault, troopers say

A 53-year-old inmate at the Anchorage jail died after being assaulted by another inmate in a cell on Friday, authorities said.

About 1:31 p.m. Friday, the Alaska Bureau of Investigation received a report that CPR was being performed on an inmate at the Anchorage jail, troopers wrote in a Saturday dispatch. Mark Canul was found unconscious in a cell during a routine check by a prison guard, troopers wrote.

Canul was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, troopers wrote. Records show Canul was awaiting a competency hearing on a misdemeanor charge of refusing to leave bus property. He was arrested Nov. 22.

An investigation found that 20-year-old James Clinton "assaulted Canul which contributed to his death," troopers wrote in the dispatch.

L. Diane Casto, deputy commissioner of the Department of Corrections, said the alleged assault happened in a cell shared by the two inmates. The men had been in the same cell for about four hours, Casto said. She said there was not a surveillance camera inside the cell and no video was recorded of the incident.

She said neither Canul nor Clinton had previous violent convictions and both were considered minimum-security prisoners.

The men had previously been in the same unit at the jail, but in different cells, for two days in September 2015, Casto said.


Casto said she couldn't yet comment on the nature of Canul's injuries. She said troopers and the Department of Corrections have launched separate investigations.

Clinton is now facing a felony first-degree murder charge, troopers said. He was being held without bail.

Like Canul, Clinton was originally jailed on a misdemeanor charge of refusing to leave bus property, according to court records. He was arrested Dec. 7 and had been next due in court Tuesday for a hearing.

Just a month ago, Gov. Bill Walker fired the state corrections commissioner and vowed to fix Alaska's "broken" prison system after the release of a scathing report that detailed widespread failures that may have led to deaths in state jails.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly was an ADN staff reporter.