Attorney for Matthew Shields: Coyle's Death Was Unintentional
Judge Thomas A. Brown still set bail at $400,000. Shields faces as many as 30 years if convicted of aggravated manslaughter in the incident.
The fact that Matthew Shields did not use a weapon in his alleged, now-fatal sucker-punch of Ryan Coyle suggests that Shields did not intend to kill Coyle, the suspect's attorney argued at his arraignment Tuesday.
Nonetheless, Coyle's family took their 20-year-old son off life support at Cooper Hospital Friday when it was apparent he would not recover from his injuries. A postmortem exam by Camden County medical examiner Dr. Gerald Feigin determined Coyle's cause of death was homicide by blunt-force trauma.
According to Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah, Shields slammed an elbow into the unsuspecting Coyle’s head—a move witnesses described as a sneak attack—driving him to the concrete. Shields then allegedly attacked a witness to the assault.
Shields, 21, of Westville, now faces aggravated manslaughter charges and could do 10 to 30 years if convicted. His bail was also upgraded from $50,000 to $400,000.
That's still $100,000 less than Camden County Assistant Prosecutor Christine Shah had argued for. Shah offered substantial evidence that Shields was the assailant, including videotaped statements from eyewitnesses his own admission to police of the attack.
“By all accounts, judge, this attack was completely unprovoked,” she told Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Brown Jr. in her argument for leaving bail at $500,000.
Shields’ attorney, Joseph J. Hoffman III, didn’t dispute the facts as Shah presented them, but said Shields’ lack of a weapon in the attack made it unlikely Shields was trying to do more than assault Coyle.
“That is not the type of conduct that strongly evidences an intent to kill,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman argued that Shields wasn't a flight risk after initially turning himself into police, especially since he stuck around after being bailed out on the original aggravated assault charge, knowing the charges would become more serious after Coyle’s death.
“While he was released, [Shields] did not flee, but remained in his hometown of Westville the entire time,” Hoffman said.
That argument didn’t have much effect on Judge Brown, who reduced the recommended bail from $500,000 to $400,000 cash or bond and ordered Shields not to have any contact with Coyle’s family.
“Given the severity of the charges and the nature of the charges, I do believe that the defendant does pose somewhat of a flight risk,” Brown said.
Shields, in an orange prison jumpsuit, was silent for most of the proceeding, answering, “Yes, sir,” to the judge twice.
Coyle's family issued a statement over the weekend expressing their heartbreak over his loss.
"Words are not enough to express the feeling of grief and loss that we have in losing Ryan," the statement read. "We appreciate the support and prayers of so many who have reached out and ask that you continue to pray for healing and peace."