A district court in Shawnee, Kansas has allowed a defense expert witness to testify, but limited the scope of his testimony.
Pritchard Charged with Murder
Colin Edward Pritchard, 59, was charged with the premeditated first-degree murder of his former wife, Cindy Pritchard. Cindy Pritchard was found dead in the apartment that the two shared after a 911 caller identifying himself as Colin Pritchard called for help and told the dispatcher that he had just shot Cindy in the head. The responding police officers testified that Colin stated that they had been drinking and fighting and that he couldn’t take it anymore.
Scott Kipper, the doctor who performed Cindy Pritchard’s autopsy, testified that Cindy died of a gunshot wound to the head and that the pistol was in contact with her head when it was discharged.
Is Expert Shawn Parcells Qualified to Testify?
Colin Pritchard’s defense attorney, William Rork, proposed to call Shawn Lee Parcells as an expert witness. Parcells has an undergraduate degree from Kansas State University and a masters degree from New York Chiropractic College. He is currently working on a doctorate degree in neuro, infectious disease and forensic epidemiology from Capella University. Parcells was formerly an adjunct professor at Wichita State University in forensic pathology and an assistant adjunct professor at Johnson County Community College. Parcells did note that the Wichita State University position was a pilot program with one student and ended after one year.
Parcells has previously testified as an expert witness in other Kansas courts and has participated in hundreds of autopsies.
The assistant district attorney on the case, Brett Watson, opposed allowing Parcells to testify, saying that it was unknown what Parcells would testify about. He raised concerns that Parcells would give “outlandish” testimony in front of the jury.
Watson pointed to a time when another Shawnee County district judge refused to allow Parcells to testify. In 2014, at the trial of James Arthur Qualls III, District Judge Cheryl Rios ruled that the defense had not shown Parcells to be an expert to testify about the trajectory of bullets that struck the victim’s body. Judge Rios also denied a defense motion to allow Parcells to testify about the impact of methamphetamines and alcohol on the victim’s mind.
Judge Allows Testimony But Limits Scope
Here, District Judge Mark Braun ruled that Parcells could testify as an expert witness, but gave him very strict guidelines about the scope of testimony. He issued a court order limiting Parcells to the one-paragraph summary of his proposed testimony.
Parcells testified for almost an hour. He agreed with the coroner’s earlier testimony that Cindy Pritchard had suffered a gunshot wound to the head and on the path that the bullet had traveled. Parcells opined that it was a “50-50 conclusion” whether the victim had suffered bruising to her body in the struggle before the shooting.
At several times during Parcells’ testimony, the prosecution objected, saying the testimony was outside Judge Braun’s order. Judge Braun upheld those objections. At one point, Judge Braun instructed Parcells to only answer yes-no questions with a yes or no and not to go into lengthy explanations.