Supporters of an embattled judge want voters to listen to the voices of the jurors and the "voice of the Jayhawks."
With the Nov. 2 retention election a week away, Judge Paula Martin's supporters have intensified efforts to keep her on the bench, countering a campaign that was instigated weeks earlier by a group angry at the judge for her sentencing record.
On Sunday, members of the pro-Martin group went door-to-door reminding voters of Martin's support from most jurors in the controversial rape cases that led to the effort against her. The group also is running a radio ad featuring Martin's father-in-law, Max Falkenstien, who for years has been the radio voice of the Kansas Jayhawks.
In the ad, which is airing on KLWN 1320-AM, Falkenstien says the group seeking to oust Martin is circulating "incomplete and misleading information" about her decisions.
"He's a trusted community person who is urging people to get the facts ... not to jump to conclusions, and to retain a good judge based on her record," Dan Watkins, a Lawrence attorney who's leading the pro-Martin group, said of Falkenstien. "He also knows the judge pretty well."
Falkenstien said this was the first time he'd done a political ad, despite other opportunities.
"I just have never chosen to disclose my feelings," Falkenstien said. "All the other opportunities have been in different situations when I've been asked to endorse a candidate and I've always chosen not to do that."
Falkenstien described Martin as an excellent judge who applies the law fairly. He said he was concerned about the amount of misinformation and inadequate research that Martin's detractors have been put before the public.
"I just felt it was important that people get the facts before they jump to conclusions," he said.
Martin came under fire earlier this year for breaking from sentencing guidelines and giving probation, 60 days in jail and community service to William N. Haney and Brian K. Ussery, both of whom were convicted of rape for having physically unforced sex with an intoxicated 13-year-old girl. Martin gave a similar sentence to defendant Michael J. Rayton, who pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
The fliers distributed Sunday by members of the pro-Martin group were headlined "Jurors Support Judge Martin," and pointed out that 16 jurors from the Haney and Ussery trials have put their names on a list of people who think Martin should be retained.
"I am very concerned that a fine judge will be run out of office on an emotional issue when the true facts are not known and when her entire performance over her career is not given a balanced evaluation," Jim Thorp said in an e-mailed interview."She gave the impression of a very intelligent and concerned public official who wanted to do what was fair for both sides in this case."
Thorp is a senior scientist with the Kansas Biological Survey and served as a juror in the Ussery trial.
For Thorp and other jurors, it was hard to live with their decision to convict Haney and Ussery when they learned that, under state sentencing guidelines, both men faced 13 years in prison. Under Kansas law, sex with a child under 14 is equivalent to physically forced rape by a stranger.
But state law allows a judge to give a lesser sentence if he or she finds there are "substantial and compelling" reasons. Martin said she considered, among other key points, that the girl was a willing participant in the events that led to intercourse -- a finding that outraged police, prosecutors, the victim's family and rape victim advocates.
Karin Drees, chairwoman of the group opposing Martin, said she didn't think it was jurors' place to weigh in on the subject of sentencing.
"The jurors did their job. They convicted," she said. "Number one, they do not know the sentencing laws or guidelines. Number two, they did not sit through the sentencing testimony."
Drees also pointed out that while many of the jurors signed a list supporting Martin, only a handful had publicly spoken on the issue.
Jurors say it wasn't an easy decision to stick their necks out. Some of them, concerned about being attacked by others in the community, still will not speak publicly about their support for Martin even though they've put their names on the list.
"In my view, taking a stand in support of excellent public officials who are on the firing line, such as Judge Martin, is worth the possible negative impressions and probably minor consequences that could result," juror Thorp said.
Members of the anti-Martin group have a "men's rally" planned for Wednesday, Drees said.