TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After an appeals court upheld the murder conviction and life sentence of Michael Haim in 2021, his new attorneys have filed another motion for post-conviction relief, saying he should get a new trial because of ineffective counsel in his first one.
The Jacksonville man was convicted in 2019 of killing his wife and was sentenced to life in prison in a case that drew heavy attention in Northeast Florida.
Bonnie Haim’s 1993 disappearance went unsolved for two decades before her remains were found by the couple’s son, Aaron, in 2014 while he was demolishing an outdoor shower at the home where they had lived.
Haim is an inmate at Madison Correctional Institution, according to the state Department of Corrections website.
Haim’s current appeal contends his trial lawyers failed to properly challenge the statements made by his then 3-year-old son to investigators, saying that it was his father who’d hurt his mother.
Haim’s son was called to testify in the trial but said he had no memory of the night his mother disappeared.
According to the appeal, that means the statements he gave at age 3 were hearsay when repeated by investigators and should not have been allowed.
The appeal also contends trial counsel was ineffective by failing to present a ballistics report on the bullet fragment that was found near Bonnie Haim’s remains; and by failing to present an expert on child brain development who would have said a 3-year-old does not have the requisite brain development to accurately perceive and convey facts.
During the trial, Haim took the stand against the advice of counsel and denied any involvement in his wife’s murder. He was convicted by the jury after just 90 minutes of deliberations and was sentenced to life in prison.
Haim’s previous appeal also argue that the statement from his son should have been excluded, along with the .22-caliber shell casing found near Bonnie Haim’s remains.
But the appeals panel in 2021, in an 11-page opinion, rejected the arguments, saying police had always suspected Haim in the murder of Bonnie Haim, whose purse was found in a dumpster at a hotel near Jacksonville International Airport and whose car was found in an airport parking lot.
“The victim’s friends reported that she was planning to leave Haim and take their son with her,” the opinion, written by Judge Lori Rowe and joined by Judges M. Kemmerly Thomas and Rachel Nordby, said. “Haim admitted that he and the victim argued the night before she disappeared. And the day after her disappearance, a child protection team member interviewed Aaron. The child made statements that further implicated his father. But Haim was never prosecuted, in part, because the victim could not be found. The case remained cold until 2014.”
The child’s statement indicated that he saw Haim injure Bonnie Haim. The appeals court said Circuit Judge Steven Whittington properly denied Haim’s attempt to keep the statement out of the trial.
The son, whose name is now Aaron Fraser, won a wrongful-death lawsuit against Michael Haim. Part of that lawsuit involved receiving his childhood home, where he subsequently found his mother’s remains while doing renovation work.