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Third Hawaii inmate faces death penalty in Arizona

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A third Hawaii inmate serving time in an Arizona prison faces the death penalty after allegedly killing a fellow inmate during an argument in June.

Mahina Uli Silva, 21, was indicted by a Pinal County grand jury yesterday for allegedly strangling his cellmate from Hawaii, Clifford Medina, 23, on June 8. Medina was found unresponsive in the cell he shared with Silva at Saguarao Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz.

Clayton Frank, director of the state Department of Public Safety, said his office was informed of the indictment yesterday.

Frank said Silva was sent to prison in 2006 after being convicted for burglary, theft and robbery. He is eligible for parole in October 2011.

Silva is the third inmate from Hawaii facing capital crime charges.

The other two are Miti Maugaotega Jr., 24, who is serving a life sentence for first-degree attempted murder for the June 2003 shooting of Punchbowl resident Eric Kawamoto; and Micah Kanahele, 29, who is serving two 20-year sentences for the October 2003 shooting deaths of Greg Morishima at his Aiea home and Guylan Nuuhiwa in a Pearl City parking lot a week later.

Maugaotega and Kanahele were indicted earlier this year for the stabbing death of fellow inmate Bronson Nunuha, 26, who died Feb. 18.

Frank said the two are expected to stand trial in Arizona this month.

The three are the first to face capital punishment for a crime committed in a private prison on the mainland since Hawaii started housing inmates out of state in 1995.

Hawaii, which abolished capital punishment in 1957, is one of 11 states and the District of Columbia that do not have the death penalty.

Maugaotega, Kanahele and Silva are among the 1,871 male Hawaii inmates at Saguaro, a 1,897-bed prison owned by Corrections Corp. of America.

Frank said an internal investigation into Medina’s death by his staff hasn’t turned up any major problems or procedures that need to be changed at the private prison.

He said that Medina and Silva are both from the Pahoa area on the Big Island.

"There is no indication of bad blood between the two," Frank said.


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