By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Braddy looked to the floor.
"Listen, we need to find her," Suco said. "If she's alive, we need to find her. Tell us what happened. We need to find Quatisha. There's a five-year-old out there. If she's alive, tell us."
Braddy shook his head, no.
The next morning, two fishermen found a little girl's body floating in a canal near Alligator Alley. She was wearing Care Bare pajamas. Alligators had ripped off some of her flesh and taken an arm. An autopsy revealed that Quatisha had died from blunt trauma to the head and a lacerated liver beaten to death by strong hands.
On November 11, 1998, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office charged Braddy with the killing.
Eight years after his arrest, no jury has heard Braddy's case. Since 1998, he's fired a series of attorneys, which has prompted judge after judge to grant him delay after delay. Braddy, an intelligent man who trained to be a paralegal while incarcerated from 1984 to 1997, has played the legal system like a banjo. The longer he stalls, the more difficult it becomes for prosecutors to prove their case. Already two potential witnesses have passed away.
Braddy's first lawyer, Edith Georgi, an assistant public defender, lasted the longest. She handled his case for about eighteen months despite Braddy's repeated attempts to fire her. "He's a very colorful character, a great talker," Georgi recalls. "But he wants to run his own show. I just spent so much time dealing with Harrel's issues. He couldn't be the boss of his case, and that created so much tension between us I finally agreed to leave the case."
Prosecutors and former defense attorneys agree that, whether through calculated maneuvers or legal luck, Braddy has had an astonishing ability to delay his capital case for eight years. Now Braddy has elected to represent himself. And until last week, it seemed his murder trial might finally begin. Jury selection had been slated for Monday, July 24. Owing to scheduling conflicts, Judge Glick was expected to hand off the trial to Judge Reemberto Diaz.
At the July 17 hearing, as Braddy stood in the jury box, reading glasses on his face and legal papers cradled in his large hands, Judge Glick announced that a problem had surfaced: Judge Diaz was a former attorney of Braddy's. Diaz, who declined to comment for this article, was required to recuse himself. And that gave Braddy what he apparently wanted: another continuance.
His trial has been rescheduled to begin October 10 before Judge Glick.
Miami-Dade prosecutor Abbe Rifkin, who has handled Braddy's case for the eight years since Quatisha's body was pulled from the swampy canal, has suffered through too many continuances to pin her hopes on that date.
"If I have to come out of retirement to prosecute Harrel Braddy," she says, "you better believe I will."