Man dies after being convicted in Ariz. arson case

Published 10:01 am Friday, June 29, 2012

PHOENIX (AP) — A man collapsed in court and died after being convicted Thursday of deliberately burning down his $3.5 million Phoenix mansion.

Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies said they were investigating whether Michael Marin put something in his mouth that led to his death after the verdict was read.

“We will have to wait until we get toxicology reports from the medical examiner until we can confirm if he did and what the substance was,” sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Sprong said in a written statement.

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A jury had found Marin, 53, guilty of arson of an occupied structure. When his trial began in May, prosecutors said he faced up to nearly 16 years in prison if convicted.

Video from inside the courtroom showed Marin putting his hands over his eyes after the verdict was read and then covering his mouth with both hands.

As Judge Bruce Cohen and lawyers were discussing aggravating factors and the jury was out of the courtroom, Marin’s face suddenly turned red and he began to make throat-clearing noises before he collapsed to the floor.

Marin’s attorneys tried to assist him, and paramedics were called. Rescuers performed chest compressions but Marin was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Calls to his lawyer, Lindsay Abramson, and to the county medical examiner’s office weren’t immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

Prosecutors claimed Marin torched his Biltmore Estates mansion, near the Phoenix-Paradise Valley border, in July 2009 after it didn’t sell at a charity auction. He had offered the 10,000-square-foot property to raise money for a Mesa-based child-welfare organization.

Prosecutors said Marin couldn’t afford the monthly mortgage of $17,500 and had a balloon payment of $2.3 million coming due.

Authorities said Marin escaped the fire by climbing down a rope ladder while wearing a scuba tank and diving mask to protect him from the smoke.

Phoenix Fire Department investigators noted “four separate areas of origin” — two upstairs and two downstairs — and a Phoenix crime lab analysis revealed gasoline in two areas of the mansion.

Marin was a former attorney, banker and art collector who had nearly $900,000 in the bank in 2008 but only $50 at the time of the fire, the Arizona Republic reported.