Here-to-For Only Seen in Spy Movies - the Cyanide Capsule

It is never dull here in AZ.  It appears that Michael Marin, upon being convicted of arson in court yesterday, may have committed suicide right there in court.

"Burning Man" Michael Marin reportedly died after his "medical emergency" in the courtroom yesterday, which came after a jury handed down a guilty verdict in Marin's arson case.

Fox 10 had its camera on Marin's face as the verdict came in, and it sure looks like he put something in his mouth before he started having an apparent seizure and fell unconscious in the courtroom.

Video at the link if you are morbidly inclined.

I just read JD Tuccille's High Desert Barbeque, also about arson in AZ as it turns out, and enjoyed it thoroughly.  But authors like Tuccille who are writing satire have to work hard to stay more outrageous than the news here in AZ.  Seriously, a guy starts a fire in his own house, escapes from the second floor in a scuba mask and tanks, and then crunches a cyanide tablet in court as the verdict is read?  Come on, who is writing this stuff?

PS-  I may be missing the legal definition on this, but Marin was convicted of arson on an occupied structure when he was the only occupant.  I find it odd that the arsonist himself "counts" as an occupant towards this charge which, I presume, carries worse penalties than arson on an unoccupied structure.  Upping the charge this way reminds me of the NYC police asking people on the street to show them their weed and then busting them on the charge of public display of said weed.


  1. Agammamon:

    'Course you also have to wonder how you can be charged with arson when you're burning down your own house.

    I mean, I can understand charges of endangering others or their property, even attempted arson (on the neighbor's houses) since the prosecutor is real keen on overcharging (does he charge attempted suicides as attempted homocide?).

  2. Matt:


    In response to your wondering how you can be charged with arson when you're burning down your own house I have two words for you: Insurance Fraud.

  3. Goober:


    Agreed, except then shouldn't the charge be...

    wait for it...

    insurance fraud?

    I'm not exactly sure how you get charged with arson when it was your own property you burnt. Is my property mine to dispose of as I see fit? Or is it not mine, and I'm just renting it with the false prestense that it's mine?

    If the problem is that he endangered his neighbors houses, then the charge should have been something along the lines of reckless endangerment of others' property. If the charge was insurance fraud, then that is what the charge should have been. I know that this sounds trite, but it is true - if a man can't burn down his own house, then it really isn't his.

  4. IGotBupkis, Serial AGW Denier and Bon Vivant:

    Dang!! Maybe Bret Kimberlin, et al, can find some way to blame this on Aaron Walker and Patterico!!


  5. IGotBupkis, Serial AGW Denier and Bon Vivant:

    BTW -- no, I think it's still arson -- for one thing, he endangers the firemen whose job it is to put it out, as well.

    In general, deliberately setting ANY fire that's intended to go out of control is arson. I think you can get charged with it even if you "intended" to control it if you don't take obviously reasonable precautions and/or any rational person would expect it to get out of control under the circumstances.

  6. Vic Kelley:

    Cyanide pills are real. Have no idea how people ge them but they do. Leonard Lake was a serial killer suspect when he was arrested he swallowed one and died. We know about his terrible crimes because his partner, Charles Ng, was arrested and prosecuted.

  7. DrTorch:

    Heretofore doesn't require hyphens.

    Vic- I think you can simply put sodium cyanide powder in a pill press. Most college chem labs have presses to be used for a standard bomb calorimetry experiment, so they aren't hard to come by. The sodium cyanide probably is in this big brother era.

  8. Rick C:

    Archduke Ferdinand's assassins attempted to commit suicide by cyanide capsule too, but the capsules were defective. From Wikipedia: "Princip attempted suicide first with his pistol, then by ingesting cyanide, but he vomited the past-date poison (as did Čabrinović, leading the police to believe the group had been deceived and bought a much weaker poison)."

  9. John Moore:

    Since it is legal in Arizona to shoot someone (deadly force laws) to prevent arson of an occupied residence (not even your own residence), presumably a neighbor could have shot this guy when they saw him with the gasoline.


  10. Russ R.:

    We'll obviously have to wait until the post-mortem toxicology report to be certain of whether or not he poisoned himself, but assuming for now that he did... so what?

    1. It's his life, he can end it whenever he wants.
    2. He didn't harm anybody else in the process.
    3. He saved the taxpayers of Arizona lots of money on his incarceration.

  11. Ariel:

    Arson is arson, especially your own house because insurance fraud is only an EMT away. However, the charge of "arson on an occupied building" is how moronic prosecutors can go trying to get either a plea agreement or a jury conviction on any charge. He was the only occupant, and the real purpose of that law was for either arsonists not living there or arsonists who put others living there in danger. He was neither.

    Endangering the lives or properties of his neighbors at the Biltmore Estates, or endangering the lives of responders, I can see. If I had been on the jury, hearing that charge would have caused uncontrollable laughter or a sigh heard around the room. I'd likely be released by now.

  12. Craig:

    Russ, I think you are on to something. Maybe prosecutors should be allowed to offer a defendant three choices: a plea bargain, a trial date, or a cyanide pill.

  13. elambend:

    @vic Kelley: my day is now grimmer for having read up on Lake and Ng, creepy

  14. Matt:


    No, they have to prove that he burned the house down himself, or hired someone else to burn it down before they can make a case for insurance fraud. They would either have to charge insurance fraud and arson at the same time or convict him on the arson first.

  15. tomw:

    I *think* he has to file an insurance claim for it to be insurance fraud. If he doesn't file, and doesn't get insurance proceeds, it may not be fraudulent. The insurance company didn't lose anything, they gained a pile of premium payments with no payout.
    Seems to me, the mortgage holder might be concerned, and make the fraud accusation, as he did not do 'reasonable' stuff to protect their investment.
    Guess you may be required to carry insurance at the behest of the mortgage company, and they'd be the beneficiaries if the place burned down... Mental maze.

  16. Goober:

    No, they have to prove that he burned the house down himself, or hired someone else to burn it down before they can make a case for insurance fraud.

    And they wouldn't have to prove these things in order to determine that he was guilty of arson? Am I missing something here?

  17. mark2:

    @Matt, for your hypothesis to work, the man would also need to have the property free of bank loans. The property isn't his if it is owned by the bank.

    If it is still owned by the bank, the bank has every right to demand that it be built up again.

  18. Dale:

    I would be willing to bet that there is a clause in the insurance that says self-inflicted damage relieves the insurance company of any liability. As for the banks right to demand that it be built again I don’t think they would have any right. The insurance wasn’t in their name and was not being paid by them. I would bet that the bank is going to have to eat this one.

  19. NevadaMark:

    I have no idea if it is still true, but there was a time that you could burn down your own house in Virginia. You had to have clear title, obviously. And you had to tell the fire department in advance so they could be there (presumably to protect the rest of the neighborhood). I have never heard of anyone actually doing this in the Old Dominion, but at least it was a recognition of your property rights.

    Are there any lawyers reading this blog who can give us a layman's definition of "arson of an occupied dwelling" and perhaps similar definitions of the other various classes of arson in Arizona?