Criminal Justice

Lawyer Took Cyanide After Arson Verdict, Then Collapsed and Died, Medical Examiner Says


A 53-year-old lawyer whose finances apparently took a nosedive in recent years committed suicide in an Arizona court last month by swallowing a cyanide pill, immediately after a Maricopa County jury convicted him of burning down his own upscale home in the Phoenix area.

Michael James Marin collapsed within minutes after a video of his June 28 arson conviction shows him seemingly putting something in his mouth and then swallowing. Medical examiner Kevin Horn announced Friday that his death was a suicide, reports Reuters.

The swift-acting poison has been known since ancient times as a cause of sudden death. After sheriff’s investigators were contacted by an adult son of Marin, who had received an email from his father explaining that his will was ready in case “things don’t go well in court,” a sodium cyanide powder canister was found inside the elder Marin’s car.

Marin, who told authorities he had escaped from the second story of his blazing home in 2009 by donning scuba gear and descending a rope ladder, fell under suspicion when fire investigators reportedly found multiple points of ignition and determined that the blaze was set intentionally.

At trial, prosecutors said Marin had $50 in his bank account at the time of the fire, compared to $900,000 a year earlier, and substantial debts, according to the Associated Press and a 2009 Phoenix New Times article.

However, it doesn’t appear that any insurance payoff would have benefited Marin, since he had a hefty mortgage.

Marin was a Yale University law graduate and the New Times profile says he had described working in the 1980s and 1990s in Asia for Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and Salomon Brothers.

In more recent years, however, it is unclear from the article how Marin brought in the bucks to support a lifestyle that included the purchase of the multimillion-dollar home and Pablo Picasso etchings, for which he said he paid an amount in seven figures.

Let go by Lehman Brothers in 1997, “I was in good shape money-wise at that time,” he told the New Times. Additional articles linked to a New Times page about Marin provide additional details.

Although Marin was not in custody during his trial, he likely expected to be sentenced to prison time after his conviction. Sheriff Joe Arpaio said investigators determined Marin had bought the cyanide about a year ago. That was around the same time that Marin reportedly told family members “he could not go back to jail and would do something drastic if found guilty,” the AP article recounts.

Related coverage:

Arizona Republic: “Suicide in court tied to cyanide”

Daily Mail: “Family of man who swallowed pill and died shortly after being found guilty received a ‘delayed email’ from him after he died and police found can labelled ‘cyanide’ in his car”

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