Michael Marin, 53, had just been found guilty of burning down the house in Arizona when he buried his head in his hands before appearing to put something inside his mouth and swallows. He then takes a drink.
Minutes later he suffers convulsions and then collapses on the floor of the courtroom. He was rushed to hospital in an ambulance where he later died. Mr Marin, who worked on Wall Street and owned several original Pablo Picasso etchings, had been on trial accused of burning down his luxury home because he could no longer afford to pay the mortgage.
At the time of the blaze in July 2009 Mr Marin, a graduate of Yale Law School, had recently failed to sell the house at auction. He was found outside the house wearing scuba diving gear and claimed he had escaped the fire by using a rope ladder to climb down from a second floor window.
But fire investigators said that they had found four points of origin for the fire, both upstairs and downstairs, and had discovered phone books, cardboard boxes and newspapers covered in petrol, making arson the most likely cause.
Mr Marin’s trial began in May. Prosecutors told the court that Mr Marin was a successful banker whose world and finances had collapsed during the economic downturn. He denied setting the fire.
Yesterday, just before 1pm local time, the jury found him guilty. Upon hearing the verdict he closed his eyes and almost immediately appeared to swallow something.