Former death row inmate sues McMinn County; suit dismissed - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Former death row inmate sues McMinn County; suit dismissed

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - A local man released from death row will not be getting the multi-million dollar payday he hoped for.

You may remember Gussie Vann. He was sentenced to death for the 1992 rape and murder of his daughter in Athens, but a judge threw out his conviction a couple years ago.

After being released from death row, Gussie Vann filed a $20 million federal lawsuit against McMinn County. This week, a judge dismissed his suit, saying he waited too long to file it.

Gussie Vann was convicted of murder, rape and incest in 1994, two years after their eight-year-old daughter Necia was found strangled to death in their Athens home.

His wife, Bernice pleaded guilty to accessory, but Gussie Vann maintained his innocence for nearly two decades as he sat on death row.

"He was prepped for execution one time and it's not just lethal injection, it's riding the lighting in the electric chair," attorney Robin Flores says.

In 2011 a judge threw out Vann's conviction, citing inaccurate medical testimony. That's when Vann turned to Chattanooga Attorney Robin Flores to file a federal lawsuit against McMinn County for $20 million.

"He went from a healthy man to someone that's in a wheelchair, kidney failure, his kids were all dispersed out in adoptions, his wife died in prison. He's broken from this prosecution," Flores says.

This week, a judge dismissed his lawsuit against the county, saying the statute of limitations had run out.

Flores argues it wasn't too late if you consider the window opening when his conviction was dismissed, instead of the time of his retrial, like the county argued and the judge agreed.

"He stands today as a man innocent of those charges and it's a shame the law is written as it is, but we got to go by the law," Flores says.

Flores says Vann has 30 days to file an appeal on the McMinn County suit, but has not decided yet.

He is not a free man, though.

He's currently being held in the Morgan County Correctional Facility, serving a sentence for an aggravated rape charge in a different case.

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