Readers may not know Shawn Parcells’ name, but those who have followed the Michael Brown case know his work. Parcells worked with the Brown family and pathologist Michael Baden on a private autopsy, the results of which Parcells claimed demonstrated that Brown had been (a) shot in the back and (b) shot with his hands in the air in a position of surrender. Both claims were later discredited by the official autopsy and witness accounts to the grand jury that heard the case, but not before the claims made by Parcells on a number of news shows fueled protests and unrest across the nation.
So who is “Professor” Shawn Parcells? He’s not a professor, he’s not a doctor, and he’s not qualified to work unassisted on autopsies either, as CNN discovered. In fact, his interference in another case allowed a murderer to go free, and the college at which he claims adjunct status says they never hired him in that capacity. Is Shawn Parcells just a remarkable auto-didact, or “a very good con artist” as law enforcement considers him (via Chuck Lane)?
Parcells doesn’t claim to have any specific license or certification to do the work he does. He knows how to do autopsies from “on-the-job training,” watching pathologists and assisting them at various morgues, he said. Sometimes he’s been paid for this work and sometimes he wasn’t, he added.
“To take out organs and to cut open a body, you don’t need to be a pathologist,” he said. “Come to an autopsy. I think when you see what I do, you’ll realize that I’m not just making this stuff up out of blue, thin air.”
He certainly sounded knowledgeable and authoritative on August 18 when he presented the findings of the Michael Brown autopsy to a nationally televised news conference.
Baden, who conducted the autopsy, spoke first, and then introduced Parcells, saying he “has been instrumental in the autopsy evaluation.”
“First of all, I’m Professor Shawn Parcells,” Parcells said as he stood to address the reporters.
On his LinkedIn page and to CNN, Parcells said he’s an adjunct professor at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas — but a spokeswoman for the university told CNN that’s not true.
“(Parcells) is not now and has never been a member of the Washburn University faculty,” university spokeswoman Michaela Saunders wrote in an email to CNN, adding that at one point, Parcells spoke without receiving pay to two groups of nursing students about the role of a pathologist’s assistant and gave a PowerPoint presentation and answered students’ questions.
Let’s leave the questions of how Parcells keeps getting contracts aside for the moment. Let’s even set aside how pop pathologist Michael Baden allowed Parcells to take over the show. How did the media miss this story for so long? As CNN notes, Parcells had a rather full dance card with the national media for quite a while, promoting what turned out to be an erroneous narrative — one on which Robert McCulloch heaped considerable scorn last week. Why did no one vet Parcells before putting him on the air? His findings were certainly controversial and provocative, yet it seems that not one media outlet did any checking on the background of their source for their conclusions.
The easiest conclusion one can reach is that the media didn’t feel the need to check into Parcells’ background and claims because he gave them the narrative that they wanted to sell. If that’s the case, then Parcells wasn’t the one running the con.