Tense moment as teen charged in deadly south Huntsville shooting appears in court

Tense moment as teen charged in deadly south Huntsville shooting appears in court

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - New details came out in court on Wednesday as Huntsville investigators testified about Joseph Earls, the man accused of killing a young woman.

Police say a drug deal ended in a deadly shooting.

Earls, 18, appeared before Madison County District Judge Patricia Demos for his preliminary hearing. The investigator on the case, Dave Mullins, took the stand to testify.

According to Mullins, Earls and friends went buy drugs from another group at a gas station on South Memorial Parkway using fake money on April 10.

But the sellers didn't fall for it and they left. Earls' car followed and when they all stopped at the intersection of Hillwood Drive and Chicamauga Trail, shots were fired.

Samantha Coyner was driving the car that Earls was tailing. She was shot and later passed away.

"This is a fairly straightforward case. It's a drug deal gone bad and unfortunately, a girl got caught in the crossfire. The plan was to give them the fake money and we're going to get the dope and run away and the other guys didn't fall for it so they decided they were going to get it another way and chased them down," said Madison County Assistant District Attorney Tim Douthit.

Earls tested negative for gunshot residue, but one of his friends tested positive. Earls says he handed the gun to that friend who fired at the victim’s car. But witnesses pointed to Earls as the shooter, Mullins testified.

"Gunshot residue is a fun thing to look at on television, but it's inherently unreliable science. It's not even admissible in court. Second and most importantly for this case, the officers on the scene let Mr. Earls wash his hands beforehand so there wouldn't be any gunshot residue anyway," Douthit stated.

As Mullins talked about the gunshot residue tests, one of Earls' family members got up and left the courtroom voicing his frustration over some of the findings in the case and there was some extra security as a result.

When asked if Earls' friend could also face charges, Douthit responded: "It's an ongoing investigation."

Prosecutors find themselves dealing with another case stemming from drugs.

"Because they're causing this kind of violence, this girl who had nothing to do with it, wrong place, wrong time, the drugs are directly responsible for their death," Douthit added.

A judge found probable cause for the case to move forward and next it will be presented to a grand jury. Earls' attorneys had no comment coming out of the courtroom.

“He went out there to deal with drugs, he brought a gun to the whole thing, he pulled the trigger,” Douthit said about Earls. “That’s a man’s game and it comes with a man’s price.”

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