Michael Marin, a.k.a. "Burning Man," Decides Not to Testify at His Arson Trial

Michael Marin, the onetime Wall Street trader, Yale-educated lawyer, and world adventurer, declined yesterday to take the witness stand in his own defense as his arson trial winds down.

Marin is on trial in Maricopa County Superior Court for allegedly burning down his Biltmore Estates mansion in July 2009. Prosecutors have alleged that the businessman, down on his financial luck, torched his fancy digs in two locations, then escaped from the second-floor window by donning scuba diving equipment and grabbing a handy roll-down ladder.

Marin has proclaimed his innocence, and by law doesn't have to prove anything to the jury of his peers -- that's the job of the State of Arizona.

So he didn't.

Instead, his attorneys relied on a Boston-area fire "expert" to try to provide an explanation other than the one that prosecutors have posed -- that a desperate Marin devised the wacky (and highly publicized) plot.

Whether that witness will win the day by creating enough "reasonable doubt" in at least one juror's mind remains to be seen.

Though the panel won't be hearing from defendant Marin from the witness stand, he did talk -- and talk -- to us for this 2009 story, entitled "The Burning Man."

"I grabbed the ladder and the scuba gear and headed back to the bed, which is where the window is," Marin told us. "And that's when I had another panic attack, if you will, I didn't know at that point if I was going to make it. I was feeling a little woozy.

"I knew I had to make a 911 call, and I had to breathe through this [scuba] apparatus, I had to get the window open, and I had to deploy the ladder. The scuba worked fine if I put it on my back, though I had to bend down to breathe into it. Time kind of slows down for me when I get into these situations."

Marin won't learn his fate for at least another week, as Judge Bruce Cohen's courtroom will be shuttered next week for a judicial conference.

If convicted, he will be facing a substantial prison term.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin