Expunged Murder Conviction Makes Background Check Futile

Nick Fishman

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?

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Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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  • Name

    Iinformation available to employers (expungements) depends, in most states, on the type of background check the employer requires of their applicants, etc.

    Fingerprint-based criminal background checks reveal expungement information. The F/P Bkg Cks are more costly but provide indemnification for the employer in any negligent employment litigation.

    It’s true today as it was yesterday and surely will be tomorrow. You Get What You Pay For

  • Name

    By the way, that wasn’t her boyfriend; I knew her and him and they were not dating!