SANTA CRUZ -- During closing statements Tuesday for a Soquel woman on trial for torching a Twin Lakes house in January, attorneys focused on her mental health at the time of the fire.
Marian Elamri Kadmiri, 20, is charged with two counts of felony arson stemming from a Jan. 13 fire on Geoffroy Drive. Firefighters found Kadmiri, who was partially dressed and incoherent, on the back deck of the house.
Defense attorney Zach Schwarzbach argued Kadmiri was having a psychotic episode and was not aware of her actions.
"Even if she did start the fire, she wasn't conscious of what she was doing," he told jurors.
Kadmiri was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic episodes about a year before the fire, Schwarzbach said.
But prosecutor Shannon Murphy argued Kadmiri was fully aware of her actions during the incident.
"After the fire started, she walked outside, stood on the porch and watched that fire burn the house," prosecutor Shannon Murphy said.
Kadmiri broke into two homes in January: one on the corner of 25th Avenue and East Cliff Drive and one on Geoffroy Drive. In the home on 25th Avenue, Kadmiri had ransacked the home before burning a paper towel roll on the stove, prosecutors said. Kadmiri's purse with her driver's license and her cellphone were found in the home. Also inside the purse was a butane lighter, a used matchbook and a burned match, which showed that Kadmiri was aware of her actions.
"She knew how to use fire, that lighting a match causes fire, lighting a lighter cause fire," Murphy said. "This was no accident. She definitely knew what she was doing."
In the second home, on Geoffroy Drive, she lit a fire that severely damaged the oceanfront side of the house, prosecutors said.
Footage from a surveillance camera showed Kadmiri entering and exiting the home several times.
But the evidence that Kadmiri started the fire is circumstantial, Schwarzbach said. He pointed to testimony from an investigating firefighter, who said he couldn't rule out the possibility that the fire on Geoffroy Drive was an accident.
While Kadmiri told an investigator "I needed help so I burn everything," the statement was taken days after the fire while Kadmiri was being treated for a psychotic episode, Schwarzbach said.
"She was still in the throws of a psychotic state," Schwarzbach said. "Why would you give that statement any credence?"
The defendant's father, Keith Kadmiri, was present in court during closing statements. Outside of the courtroom, he described his daughter as a quiet girl who was a successful biochemistry student at UC Davis.
Follow Sentinel reporter Calvin Men at Twitter.com/calvinmenatwork
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