Lawyer Poisons Himself In Court After Being Found Guilty Of Arson

Michael Marin was the very image of a powerhouse lawyer: a Yale Law School graduate who went on to find success as a Wall Street trader who climbed Mount Everest, collected valuable art works and supported charities. The bon vivant seemed to be living the life of legend until he was charged with burning down his own Biltmore Estates mansion in Arizona. Shortly after being convicted of arson in court, Marin was seen putting something in his mouth. He promptly collapsed and died.

The terrible scene was the end of a bizarre downward spiral that prosecutors insist was caused by Marin’s growing debts. Marin was in the news when he made a remarkable escape from his burning mansion by donning scuba gear to avoid smoke inhalation and climbing down a rope ladder. Investigators were suspicious and eventually accused him of setting numerous fires before setting up the daring exit.

Marin denied that allegations and insisted “One, you don’t set fire to something that you’re in and then go trap yourself upstairs to make a more dramatic exit. The second thing, if you bore into my finances, this was the worst thing that could have happened to me. Not only did I not have any incentive personally, I totally had a counter-incentive. The Phoenix Fire Department people will figure out what they figure out.”

The fire destroyed the 10,766 square foot property, including a four-car garage and about 6,600 square feet of living space. Marin, 53, was the father of four and grandfather of two (with a third on the way).

Marin often discussed his adventures in jungles and mountains, saying “I’m very calm under pressure, and I’ve certainly been tested in that way.” Marin often discussed how he scaled six of the world’s seven tallest mountains. He also was an art collector who had original Picassos.

He certainly showed remarkable composure in the process of poisoning himself — hiding the fact of his poisoning to the last minute.

It is a remarkably sad end to someone who had obvious talent and success in life. His finances had clearly evaporated. In 2008, he had $900,000 in the bank. A year later he had only $50 left in the account with a monthly mortgage payment on the mansion of $17,250 and an upcoming balloon payment of $2.3 million. He also owed another $2,500 a month on a different home — bringing the total to roughly $20,000 a month just in mortgage with another $34,000 owed in taxes.

The fire investigator was suspicious by how readily available the scuba equipment was at the time of the fire.

Here is the video of the courtroom scene:

Source: ABC

76 thoughts on “Lawyer Poisons Himself In Court After Being Found Guilty Of Arson

  1. I assume he had no equity in the house to recover instead of arson. What was he facing for time?

    Does life insurance ever pay out on a suicide?

    How could suicide be a way out?


  2. idealist707 1, July 2, 2012 at 8:43 am

    What was he facing for time?

    “He faced up to 16 years in prison.”

  3. ” he had $900,000 in the bank. A year later he had only $50 left in the account ”

    That is something I don’t think anyone can comprehend from the outside looking in,and from the inside looking out its the same thing.

  4. So the guy pissed away a million dollars in a year, he went on very expensive adventures to far away places which means he was gone long periods of time. When did this genius ever work for a living? And now the gutless coward has left his family with all the debt and all the legal entanglements with no support from him.

  5. Too much ego is a terrible thing. Especially when one finds out that one’s abilities in all things don’t match.

    What Frankly said.

  6. When you watch the video he obviously did take something. I know some people think it is cowardly and I do not mean to glamorize it or support it but it takes nerves of steel to do what he did knowing he would be facing terrible consequences as it worked, or worse even, if it didnt.

  7. Mr. Turley…can you advise me on this??
    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington(CREW) and National Security Archive(NSA) filed a suit against the EOP for email and records…and the judge ordered a settlement….
    my case against the EOP was for emails and documents during the same time period as CREWS and NSAs suit, but the judge ruled against me….is the judiciary subject to political manipulation…see my suit on FBI wiretapping the Supreme Court… w.voinche v. FBI, 940 F.Supp. 323(DDC 1996)….no this is Amerika….

  8. suicide is an ugly angry selfish thing to do period. It will totally victimize the family he left behind. Why didn’t he sell his Picassos? (did they get burned up too?) Why let $$$ rule so???

    …and I’m not watching your (can’t remember the street name….) death-flick either…..SNUFF FILM…. ! which is what that vid sounds like when you look at the usurious mortgage mess he was in and given that the banks are seeming to give even the Mafia a good name these days….

  9. I don’t understand how his destroying his own property would be a felony, in the first place. Only if the insurance paid him off would it be a crime, and then, it would be fraud, right? The insurance would not have to pay him off it it determined that he was the cause of the fire.

    This case baffles me. Why don’t ordinary principles apply to this case?

    Whenever I see a case in which ordinary principles do not apply, I suspect a lot more than a wacko rich guy doing crazy stuff to deal with debt.

  10. Woosty,

    from the article: “The divorced father of four clung to his prized possessions: 18 etchings by Pablo Picasso, which were safe in his Gilbert, Ariz., home at the time of the Phoenix fire. ”

    I ask, too, why didn’t he sell the Picasso etchings?

    Being successful when everything is going your way is one thing. Being able to successfully deal with c… when it’s coming your way is something else entirely. Apparently he could deal only with success and couldn’t find his way out of failure.

  11. Woosty’s still a Cat 1, July 2, 2012 at 11:35 am


    that was a 2 hankie low blow…..
    It had that effect on me too …

  12. Idealist. Generally suicides can trigger benefit payment in life insurance if the policy has been in effect for a few years. (depends on state / policy )

    Malisha: You are right in the sense that unless it is a domestic violence situation, you can destroy your own property. Fraud does come up with regard to false insurance claims. Arson is another matter. It puts emergency responders in danger and this can be an aggravating factor in Arson convictions. I believe it is pretty strong a case of the deceased torching the home unlawfully for economic reasons.

    As far as this attorney goes, I feel sorry for him in a way. I wish people could have the clairvoyance to see what is happening when the suicide is taking effect. It is usually very bad. Maybe they would be deterred. I’ve seen some very horrible examples of this.

    What I used to tell people who were contemplating doing themselves in was to never put themselves in a situation for which there was no return. While the defendant in this case obviously could not unburn the house, he could even at the point of conviction begged for mercy on the court, served with good behavior his sentence, declared bankruptcy on the other debts, It could have been addressed in some manner. Eventually something will work out and be better. But to be as this man was; choking and convulsing at the point of no return, he could be begging to stop this suffering but it is too late because fate has taken hold. We should never put ourselves in this situation, if people get into a situation where they are considering doing it, always give yourself a way out if you must go to this degree.

  13. Darren Smith is spot-on. There have been several who jumped off the Golden Gate bridge and miraculously survived. When interviewed later by mental health experts, every one of them stated they changed their minds on the way down. Unfortunately, there are no handholds or parachutes on the way down.

  14. Will there be a toxology analysis of his body? Based on the facial redness shortly after he took the pill, it looks like it was cyanide.

  15. I never forget the first lesson I ever learned about suicide.

    “It’s a permanent solution to what is 99.9% of the time a temporary problem.”

  16. I have to tell my story, quickly.
    I had all the surgeries they could offer for my trigeminal neuralgia (a disabling and debilitating facial pain disorder known as “the suicide disease” and the “worst pain known to man”) and there were no other ops or treatments to offer me. I was advised by my psychologist, head of the pain clinic (a psychiatrist) neuroophthalmologist and some others that ‘rational suicide’ was acceptable in my case.
    Because of another doctor whose behavior made me feel nuts I decided not to go ahead with the suicide. A few years later a new surgery was available that did help.
    People say to me, see, you would have made such an awful decision if you had gone ahead with it. My reply is that, at the time, had I gone ahead it would have been the appropriate thing to do.
    It is rare but sometimes it is the right choice. I have to wonder if there was more going on withthis man then what we know frm the articles.

  17. There’s always more going on than we know from the articles.

    I’m writing a book about a woman who “commits suicide” by deliberately committing a capital crime and forcing the state to “put her down” at great expense and with a lot of brou-ha-ha. Her plan is nefarious but is motivated by a kind of, “how can I do this but not make it come out a total waste?” philosophy.

    “The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews.”…W. H. Auden

  18. Gene H.
    1, July 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm
    I never forget the first lesson I ever learned about suicide.

    “It’s a permanent solution to what is 99.9% of the time a temporary problem.”
    that is my thought as well…..and I have also known survivors of those who committed suicide and 100% have said that the person was depressed, or stressed, or somehow not acting like themselves….there should be so much more counselling available right now given the economic situation, the Vets returning, the damm sh*tty current state of affairs….

  19. OS,
    Two years ago I rode a bike across that Golden Gate Bridge. I don’t like big bridges to begin with and I was very nervous riding across it. I can’t imagine walking to the edge and jumping! Wow.

  20. Otteray Scribe 1, July 2, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Darren Smith is spot-on. There have been several who jumped off the Golden Gate bridge and miraculously survived. When interviewed later by mental health experts, every one of them stated they changed their minds on the way down. Unfortunately, there are no handholds or parachutes on the way down.
    The dead ones changed their minds on the way down too, it is just that they could not of themselves change their fate at that point.

    The problem is not knowing we are “on the way down” prior to reaching that point of awareness.

    We have so many deceitful energies going on around us all our lives that “on the way down” is usually the last thing we figure out.

    At that point, further “figuring out” is usually moot in terms of what is going to happen anyway.

    This happens to be true in general whether we are talking about an individual, a nation, or a civilization.

    We are on the way down, we just can’t see the water of the San Francisco bay yet.

  21. Anonymously Yours 1, July 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I am enjoying reading the comments on this……
    As Id707 would say, don’t yump.

  22. Malisha,

    Thanks for the Auden. Worth considering. I myself, at first don’t agree with him: The desires of the heart are rather straightforward. It is only the mind that screws things up.

    The CBT thought that we confuse thought with reality. And the distorted lens in the the telescope we see through. And the reflexes that disturb out motions,

    But the longings are pure, I believe. Only the plan is screwed up.

  23. Raff, I hate ledges and other high places too. Sounds paradoxical. I know a Marine fighter pilot who was invited to a cookout at a friend’s apartment. The friend lived on the 14th floor of an apartment building and they had the grill on the balcony. The Marine aviator refused to go out there. That is not at all unusual behavior among the pilot community. I have no idea why.

    Gene, I am a believer in Occam’s Hatchet. The way I heard it, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Occam did not mention any statistics. He may be related to rafflaw.

  24. Malisha, although not about suicide your book reminds me of The Life of David Gale (I believe that is title) where he frames himself so the state will execute him for a murder and then after theexecution truth of the lie of the murder is known.

  25. Idealist, Auden was a poet. WHereas obviously the “desires of the heart” are straightforward and the mind in fact “screws them up” to their corkscrew shapes, what he said, in poetry, equals that.

    The quote is, if I remember it:

    The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews
    Not to be born is the best for man
    Second best is the formal order: the dance’s pattern,
    Dance while you can.

    Dance, dance for the figure is easy…


    Auden, who is probably among my favorite poets, was actually quite a misogynist. One of his poems, wishing various things to various people for the New Year:

    “To Fascists, policemen and women,
    long nights on the glaciers of fear,
    and a lake full of brimstone to swim in,
    and a bloody awful New Year.”

    But then I understand that some of his best friends were women. Oh dear, so much to understand, so little time…

    (And most misogynists can’t write a ransom note!)

  26. Standing with your jaw open, your tongue hanging out, and looking stupid does little for my image.

    WH Auden. He seems to be my type. Will check him out.
    Engineers don’t read much poetry.

    Does anybody know who, based on sales, is America’s most popular poet?

    G’night all.

  27. Otteray,
    “The Marine aviator refused to go out there. That is not at all unusual behavior among the pilot community. I have no idea why.”

    The sensation from a plane is very different from a land-based height. When you’re flying a plane, your reference is the plane. I used to fly and never had a problem with vertigo even though the plane was frequently in an “unusual” attitude. I don’t like heights. It takes a great deal of concentration for me to not “lose it” when on a high ladder, next (and never really “too next”) to a cliff, or a high balcony (I probably wouldn’t go there if it was above the second floor and even then I wouldn’t go near the railing).

  28. bettykath

    i don’t care for balconies either, but i’ll fly every chance i get.

    insofar as suicides go i know someone who had someone very close to them commit suicide. i consider it to be a very selfish way out but i’m not exactly what you’d call a depressed person.

  29. Back OT, I think this is a guy who got lost. He was living the high life for some number of years and then suffered several setbacks that he had no skills nor energy to handle. He needed someone he trusted to help guide him out. Given his previous successes, he had an image of self-sufficiency and a record of risk-taking. These led to his hair-brained idea of getting rid of his albatross of a house and collecting the insurance. When this failed, he saw no way out.

  30. leejcaroll
    1, July 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    T. gondii infections have the ability to change the behavior of rats and mice, making them drawn to, rather than fearful of, the scent of cats. This effect is advantageous to the parasite, which will be able to sexually reproduce if its host is eaten by a cat.[12] –

    well there ya go….Zombies in a nutshell…

  31. Otteray:

    I know what you are saying about pilots. I flew in small aircraft (Mostly Cessnas, a Piper Cub or two and a glider) since I was 12 years old. Oddly, with a pilot with me I took off and landed a 152 before I drove a car on my own. So I was used to aircraft heights. When I was in my 20’s I parachuted for the first time. Everything was going fine, even when I unzipped the door and looked out. Stepping out into the strut’s footpad: Now that was pure fear. But, it went away eventually and I let go. Kind of peaceful once the chute opens, the wind rush goes away and it is quiet and serene.

    Leejcaroll: I’m very pleased and glad you made it through such a harrowing ordeal. In reading about this condition, I am glad that I cannot imagine such a horror. The thought of it seems too much to bear.

  32. Darren, You were flying before driving, terrific!! Our flying experiences are similar but I was in my 20’s before I realized that all that bs so subtly communicated about it being for the guys was, well, bs. I loved the glider, the j3 cub, the Citabria. I loved the Stearman/PT17 but I mostly rode and flew a few loops after we were in the air. (I didn’t want to pick up the tab for a ground loop). I had some time in a couple of other WWII vintage a/c and a twin but never got checked out. The a-b flying really didn’t interest me although I did some of it. Now parachute jumping – ya’all are nuts! I considered it and chickened out. I’d probably enjoy it if they could push me out the door. I suppose I could put it on my bucket list – waaaay down at the bottom. Do you still fly?

  33. BK & Darren,
    I took my first flying lesson when I was in the 10th grade. I am pleased to say my flying career consists of an exactly equal number of takeoffs and landings.

    An aside, we lost the second air tanker of the fire season yesterday afternoon. It was a C-130. A very dear friend of mine used to be the chief pilot for the State Forestry Department. Every year he would go out west to help with the firefighting. He badgered me to go for several years, but my family threw a fit and did not want me to go. As I think about it, I sometimes wonder if I should have gone. Flying an air tanker in close support of the Hotshots on the ground is as dangerous as flying close air support of ground troops in combat. And as rewarding. It is not just a job.

    Let me share a tune with you. As far as I know, this is the only folk song ever written in tribute to the brave crews who fly the tankers. PS: This is a two-Kleenex video.

  34. BettyKath, Otteray:

    Nice video and nothing like a good old Irish type folk song to sip a whiskey to. Looks like the tradgedy happened so fast, nothing could be done.

    I last flew a month ago, but despite all the time I put in I never got a pilot’s license. Yes, one of the regrets in my life. I was in Civil Air Patrol from when I was 12 until I turned 16 whereupon I became a cadet with the Sheriff’s Office and flying took a back seat. I had enough friends who could fly so, bad excuse. I thougth I would get the license but then Dr. Parkinson paid me a visit so I don’t know if I will pass the medical. My symptoms have almost completely subsided, but I don’t know.

    I know what you both are saying about old air craft and regretting not as you said Ottary hopping aboard. Around 1984-85 a friend called me saying an improptu air show just started up at Pangborn Field (EAT) So we drove over there and to our supreme delight some air club flew in a WWII Flying Fortress and a Liberator. The commander for our C.A.P. squadron flew B-17s over Europe and told us about it, now we got to see it for real inside and everything. I sat in the gunners’ positions and the pilots seat. They later took off and made several passes. One time they came over Badger Mountain and dropped down hugging the cliff and the foothills, approaching the Airport. I tell you, when I heard those thunderous engines of both aircraft rumbling down upon us at very low altitude it actually made the hair on my neck stand up. It didn’t get any cooler than that my friends. After they landed, and returned back to us, they offered me and my friend a ride to Boeing Field for a $125.00 donation. Like a FOOL I didn’t take them up because at 16 that was two week’s pay. Regretted it ever since. So I know exactly what you said Ottary about going up with the Tankers.

    The other regret? I had the opportunity to hop aboard a full size replica of the HMS Bounty and sail from Fiji to Pitcairn Island, with the choice of working some of the jobs that sailors back then did such as rigging, manning the posts or whatever interested me. Could you imagine the experience of being on a sailing vessel in the South Pacific on a clear moonless night, hearing only the occasional wave and the creaking of ropes and planks? Like travelling back 200 years. We would then spend a few days with the Pitcairners before sailing back. I could do this for $3,500 plus airfare to Fiji. But like a COMPLETE and TOTAL FOOL I was again cheap and didn’t do it. And, yes regretted it ever since.

    I’d say this was a bit off topic, I guess we all here are fortunate to have the ability to remember what we did do, or what we can maybe later. Better to be alive I suppose.

  35. OS, OMG. Lost an airplane and an entire crew. That has to be dangerous flying – close to fire, heavy load, squirrely turbulence. . Why did the wing spar break? It looks a lot like a B29 I saw a few years ago but I didn’t think they were used for fighting fires. If I remember correctly, corroded spars grounded B29s, or maybe it was another plane. Details get lost. What kind of plane was it? No one sings a sad song quite like the Irish.

  36. Darren, A private glider license doesn’t require a medical. You’re on your honor. I think one is required for a commercial or instructor. Just be honest with yourself about your abilities and your reaction times.

    My first interest in flying was when I was high school trying to figure out how to get a college education. Of course there were lots of recruiting posters around. I considered the Air Force and the Navy. I thought that flying off of an aircraft carrier was about the greatest thing I could do. At the time women were intended to be barefoot and pregnant or a secretary. There was no way they were going to let me fly one of their planes. Probably just as well. At some point I’d have figured out that those planes carried bombs and killed people. Besides, I don’t take orders very well. It was about a decade later that I spent time at the airfield and managed a number of rear seat rides in a TG-2 glider. I was the preferred rider because I didn’t get sick and I didn’t need to fly. On one long cross-country we watched a plane “bombing” a fire. Mixed reaction – glad the fire is out but sad a good source of lift was gone. My now ex- flew but he gave me absolutely no encouragement to do so. He went on vacation for a week without me when the weather was great. I didn’t mean to be sneaky, well, yes, I did, but I didn’t see any need for a fight if I found that I would be satisfied by just riding and letting someone else do the flying. We had a rather intense discussion when he got home.

  37. BK and Darren, one of the things that gives me pause is that that it could have been me in the right seat of #123 at the 0:23 mark. One reason my friend badgered me to go is that I am a high time instrument rated multi-engine pilot. They were short pilots and flight engineers at that time. I would have been a rookie, and as such would have flown as co-pilot (aka First Officer), or possibly flight engineer. The reason #123 went down was the old wing spar had overstressed. Turns out it had some small cracks in the wing spar that had gone undetected on inspection. Diving in and out of canyons with a 2,000 gallon payload puts a lot of stress and strain on the equipment. We lost another tanker in western Utah on June 3 when they snagged a wingtip on a ridge and cartwheeled in. Kudos to those crews, and so lift your glass to their bravery and skill.

  38. B K, I have seen that before. The plane first seen doing aerobatics is a real plane at an airshow. Notice there is an instant cut just before the plane “lost” its wing. After that, the plane is a radio control scale model of the real plane. I am not sure if the wing was rigged to break off, or it just happened, but the R/C plane is so overpowered (power to weight ratio) the operator could bring it in for a safe landing. The sound track of the engine is from the real airplane, so the model will “sound” like the real thing.

    As for losing wings, the same company that owned Tanker 123 also owned this C-130 which crashed a year or two later. As it turned out, the wing spar broke for exactly the same reason. There were cracks in the spar that could not be visualized on a normal inspection, without literally disassembling the wing, which is next to impossible. That second crash put the company out of business and its assets were sold off for almost no more than scrap value.

  39. Otteray That is certainly something to give pause. From what you describe, the aircraft would have failed eventually and it wasn’t just a matter of deciding to do something (such as going a different direction) might have prevented this from happening. Time bomb certainly comes to mind.

    BettyKath. I’m looking into the glider pilot training now. There’s a club in my hometown that offers lessons. Thanks for the info.

  40. FWIW, I thought the vertical climb of the “model” was suspiciously steep and a long period. But it sure fooled me when the pilot climbs out with the “wingless” right side not shown.

    My admiration, but I think I will stay here on the ground.

  41. OS wrote “Kudos to those crews, and so lift your glass to their bravery and skill.”
    The bravery and kindness (way too simple a word) of these people who take to the air and the ground to go to battle while the rest of us run as far away as possible is simply astounding.

  42. Darren, those planes were indeed ticking time bombs, but flying heavy payloads of fire retardant (3,000 gallons @ 8 pounds/gallon = 24,000 pounds) and making maximum performance maneuvers caused the spar to fail sooner than later. Cranking a plane around in a 60 degree bank puts a 2G load on it, meaning that the payload doubles to weigh as much as two fully loaded 18-wheel truck trailers, plus the weight of the plane. A lot of those tankers are older than the pilots who fly them, and were bought on the military surplus market.

  43. wow. Both wings came off. I thought that the lowest longevity was among crop dusters: over the trees, skim the ground dumping poison, sharp pullup before trees at the other end. Schweizer made crop dusters as well as gliders. Their gliders are now outperformed by the fiberglass ones but if you’re just out for fun you can’t beat their pilot protection. Also easier and cheaper to fix if you ding them.

  44. BK, you got it on Schweizer gliders. I have quite a bit of time in a 1-26. They are built strong! One afternoon the thermals were fantastic and the viability great. I used the opportunity to yank the 1-26 around pretty hard, but when I got down, the recording G-meter was pegged at 10G. I have no idea how much over that I went, because the needle was literally against the pet. I got a chewing out by the club safety officer, but the glider did not have a single skin wrinkle or popped rivet. I must admit, I really overdid it.

  45. I loved my 1-26. Took it cross country and was afraid of dinging it in a rough or short field – it didn’t need a lot of room. Got a standard Libelle. Took it across country but wasn’t as bold. I was afraid of dinging it. I wasn’t afraid in the air but the ground could be hard. Never land in a field with a cow – one “cow” is a bull. Never land a dope covered a/c in a field with lots of cow – they really are cows but they like the dope and they will trash your glider.

  46. I think the all those old planes need to go thru an x-ray or whatever technology will detect those cracks. New planes are available but competent crews willing to do the work are a rare breed I would expect.

  47. BK, according to the NTSB reports, the microscopic cracks found in the wing spar of Tanker 123 were not observable by any technique currently available. They would only have been found if the wing had been completely disassembled. Internal wing fuel tanks were in the way, so the cracks could not be visualized on inspection, and you have to take the wing apart to get the fuel tanks out.

    And you are right about the crews. You are not going to find qualified aviators willing to do the work for what they pay and with no insurance. Recruiting is more than just putting an ad in the paper or a notice on the bulletin board at your local FBO. The operant words here are “qualified” and “willing.” Kind of like at our house. I was willing. My wife wasn’t. I learned a long time ago to not try winning an argument with a red headed Registered Nurse of Scottish and Irish heritage.

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