The family of a man shot to death at a Tellico Plains, Tenn., campground in 2009 is ready to make its second try to get the shooter indicted after a judge said the wrong man was charged and tried in the case.
A jury in August found Danny Adams, of Clinton, Tenn., not guilty of reckless homicide in Vince Cole's fatal shooting at the Hidden Lake campground in July 2009.
Adams never held the murder weapon -- in fact, he was shot along with Cole by a third man, Joshua Anderson, during a scrambling, alcohol-fueled fight, according to testimony.
But Anderson, of Madisonville, Tenn., wasn't charged or even interviewed in the case. Instead, prosecutors blamed Adams for instigating the fight and charged him with negligent homicide in Cole's death and with assaulting Anderson.
Adams admitted at his trial that he hit Anderson, who he said was holding a gun on Cole. On that basis, the jury found Adams guilty of simple assault, a misdemeanor, but innocent of homicide.
At Adams' sentencing this month in Madisonville, Criminal Court Judge Carroll Ross of the 10th Judicial District turned down prosecutors' request for the maximum sentence of 11 months, 29 days.
Instead, Ross said, "Based on what I heard at trial and the facts that I heard, I'm not going to require this man to spend a single day in jail," according to the hearing transcript. Ross also said he wouldn't put Adams on supervised probation as long as Adams paid court costs promptly.
The transcript quotes Ross casting doubt on the whole case against Adams.
"I don't know anything about the facts before the trial starts. About halfway through, I'm wondering, why is he sitting over here as opposed to maybe someone else?" Ross said from the bench.
"I think there may have been a little altercation there and that's where they [jurors] got the assault, but as far as the homicide, I think the jury did the right thing on every verdict they rendered as far as based on the proof that I heard here," he said.
Afterward, Adams' father, Dan Adams, said both families were "elated" at what they heard from the bench.
"This was the first little bit of vindication" of their claims that prosecutors targeted the wrong person, he said.
Now Cole's sister-in-law, Patricia Williams, said she intends to ask the Monroe County grand jury Thursday to charge Anderson with murder and attempted murder.
Williams first went before the grand jury in August, days after Adams' trial, but the jurors have taken no action, according to the Monroe County court clerk's office.
Williams said she has asked District Attorney Steve Bebb to assign a prosecutor other than Assistant District Attorney Jim Stutts, who got Adams indicted in the case, to give legal guidance in the grand jury.
"He said it was short notice, he was having to do some other pro tems, and he would try to get that done before next week," Williams said Friday.
Neither Bebb nor Anderson could be reached for comment Friday.
Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...