Shawnee (Kansas) District Court Judge, David Debenham has approved a petition to expunge a criminal record belonging a convicted murderer. In the immortal words of Arnold Jackson from Diff’rent Strokes, I say “What you talkin bout Willis?”
Did this judge really just wipe out a murder conviction? Nothing changed. There was no new evidence to suggest this woman didn’t commit the crime. Should he have the power to say “poof, now you see it, now you don’t”?
Here are the circumstances. Kathleen Cobb murdered her boyfriend in Lawrence, KS in 1980. She served 16 years and upon her release in 1998, got a degree in social workers degree in Wyoming and started working as a drug counselor. This is definitely admirable and we applaud her efforts to help others.
She returned to Kansas in 2010 and began work at the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority. Again, this is a great development. I am assuming the housing authority knew about her conviction and weighed that against the efforts and experience she had made since 1998.
That said, why on earth would a judge expunge the record. Now, an employer will never know of the conviction if they conduct an employment background check. It’s not even like she couldn’t get a job or her social workers license. She’s done both. Shouldn’t any future employer have the right to know this information? She intentionally overdosed someone and then shot him in the back of the head. She has paid her debt to society and by all accounts is a upstanding citizen. But should such a heinous crime disappear like this?