MADISONVILLE, Tenn. — Lying in UT Hospital with a bullet in his abdomen, Danny Adams waited and waited for Monroe County lawmen to arrest the man who wounded him and killed his best friend in an alcohol-fueled fight at a local campground in July 2009.
"I thought I was the victim all the way up to the day they came and locked me up," Adams, 39, told a Monroe County jury this week.
But in a twist worthy of a Kafka novel, authorities never charged -- never even interviewed -- Joshua Anderson, the man who pulled a .22-caliber Ruger from his waistband and fired at Adams and his friend Vince Cole during the scrambling scuffle.
Instead, they charged Adams with criminally negligent homicide and aggravated assault on the theory that he had provoked the confrontation with Anderson that night and was responsible for the results.
The jury didn't buy it. On Friday, they found Adams innocent on both charges and convicted him on one count of misdemeanor simple assault.
Now Adams' father, Dan Adams, of Madisonville, is demanding that 10th Judicial District prosecutors go after the triggerman.
"I want to do everything in my power, and Danny does, to get justice for Vince Cole by going after Joshua Anderson," Dan Adams said in a telephone interview. "I feel bad for the Cole family. They'll not have resolution until the one that killed him is behind bars."
Prosecutor Jim Stutts did not return calls for comment Friday.
No contact information could be found for Joshua Anderson.
The fatal fight on July 24, 2009, capped what had been a relaxing evening of karaoke and dancing on the deck of the Hidden Lake campground in Tellico Plains. Drinks were flowing and dozens of people were partying at tables and taking turns singing, witnesses and interview transcripts said.
In testimony and interview notes compiled by Monroe County Detective Doug Brannon, Adams and Anderson each blamed the other for the fatal finale.
Anderson and his then-wife, Jamie, were already there with his uncle, Mark Anderson, when Adams and Cole came in with their wives and a female friend, witnesses said.
Adams said Anderson pushed him on the ramp leading from the campground's sloping parking lot to the deck. Anderson said Adams got in his face while he was talking with Cole. They agreed there were two separate dust-ups, each defused by others in the two parties, in the two hours or so before the final confrontation.
Adams said he saw Jamie Anderson bring a paper bag from the couple's car and Joshua Anderson take something from the bag and tuck it in his pants.
Before Anderson testified during the trial, Criminal Court Judge Carroll Ross reminded him of his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, but Anderson said he wanted to take the stand.
Anderson, dark-haired and dressed in an American Eagle T-shirt and jeans, testified that he and his wife were upset over the confrontations and decided to leave. He said he sent his wife down the ramp toward the car and he went down the secondary staircase toward the lower-level restrooms, where Adams and Cole came at him with knives.
Instead of staying at the car, Jamie Anderson showed up and gave him the pistol, he said, and he fired a warning shot. He said Adams kept coming and he fired in self-defense.
"I was in fear of my life — him with a knife, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide," Anderson said.
The Andersons ran to their car and drove to his grandfather's house, which is just across the road from the campground.
Adams, shaved bald and wearing a gray dress shirt and tie with jeans, testified that Anderson followed him, his wife and the Coles down toward the restrooms and pulled the gun on Cole. He said he hit Anderson and knocked the gun loose, but Anderson recovered it and fired twice.
"Vince, he just fell straight to the ground. He never said another word," Adams said, sobbing and burying his head in his hands.
Cole died at the scene, and Adams was flown to UT Hospital, where he stayed for several days. The bullet tumbled through his intestines and lodged in his back, where it remains, a hard lump just under the skin.
Adams' public defender, Jeanne Wiggins, pressed witnesses about inconsistencies in the investigation.
Anderson was the only one who testified that Adams or Cole had knives. In fact, his witness stand assertion that Cole had a knife was the first time anyone had said Cole was armed.
Though crime scene investigators that night found three .22-caliber shells, a gold earring and a hank of hair from Jamie Anderson's head, they didn't find a knife.
The next day, a campground worker found a blue, razor-style knife near the scene of the confrontation and turned it in. A test showed Adams' DNA on the knife, but he denied it was his. It was pointed out that he'd been shot in the abdomen and bled copiously, so it would be easy to get blood on the knife.
Wiggins asked Brannon, the investigating detective, why Anderson was never interviewed or given a field sobriety test.
He said detectives had spoken informally to Anderson, but "at some point he decided he'd better think things through before he answered us in any depth." There was no follow-up interview, he said. Wiggins also asked why Anderson wasn't charged with carrying a weapon without a permit and being armed in a place where alcohol is served. Brannon said he "didn't have the information I needed to make a legal charge at that time."
On Friday afternoon, father Dan Adams praised Wiggins' conduct in the trial.
"I feel she was given a very tough job, and she was by herself against a team defending Danny," he said.
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 ...