RACINE — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued a letter Friday to John Tate II, chairman of the Wisconsin Parole Board, asking for an immediate reconsideration of parole that was granted for a man convicted of murdering his wife in 1997 in front of their children.
Douglas Balsewicz, 54, is due to be released on May 17, having served 25 years for the 1997 murder of his wife, Johanna Rose, in West Allis.
Balsewicz was sentenced by the Milwaukee County Circuit Court to 80 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years were served.
As chairman of the Wisconsin Parole Commission, by Wisconsin statute Tate has the sole authority on the issue, as the governor noted in the letter.
Tate, who is also president of the Racine City Council, told The Journal Times earlier this week that it is extremely unlikely for Balsewicz's parole to be revoked at this point, now that it has already been approved, unless Balsewicz does something to have his own parole revoked.
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Should Balsewicz's parole be revoked, Tate said that the state would likely be sued and that the state would lose the lawsuit.
In short: Evers' letter and mounting pressure on the Parole Commission may be too little, too late.
Evers met with the family of Johanna Rose on Thursday and Friday.
In the letter, Evers expressed concern the family may not have been afforded the appropriate opportunity to “voice their memories, perspectives, and concerns before this decision was made,” Evers said in the letter to Tate.
Evers added Tate had the authority to rescind the decision if new information came to light, and the fact the family felt they were not given enough opportunity to address the parole commission was new information.
The governor noted that justice demanded consideration of the family’s voice in the matter.
“If Douglas Balsewicz goes free next week, the victim’s family may be deprived of participating to the fullest extent justice requires,” Evers added.
On Friday, Johanna Rose’s family emerged from the meeting in the governor’s office saying they were pleased with how it went and that Evers would be releasing a letter to Tate soon. They declined to discuss the contents of the letter before it was released. Some wore pink T-shirts with “#justiceforjojo” written across the fronts.
Balsewicz’s sister, Kim Cornils, said the family didn’t receive official notification that Tate had granted parole until Thursday. Evers welcomed their comments, she said, adding that the governor told them that his staff is “trying to figure out things on it.”
Cornils said she warned Evers that the November elections are coming.
“I said, more or less, you’re going to be held accountable on this,” she said. “Unless changes are made it’s not going to be good.”
The victim’s daughter, Nikkole Nelson, said he shouldn’t be paroled after serving less than half of his sentence.
“I think it’s very wrong what Tate did and decided and I hope he changes his mind after this,” she said.
• When approached by TV reporters Thursday, led by Courtney Sisk of WISN-TV, asking questions about the situation, Evers declined to comment.
• After a change in Wisconsin law more than 20 years ago, parole is not allowed for anyone convicted after Dec. 31, 1999. Had Balsewicz been convicted three years later, parole never would have been possible.
• Republican gubernatorial candidates Rebecca Kleefisch, Kevin Nicholson and Tim Michels have all criticized the parole. Nicholson and Kleefisch called for Evers to fire Tate.
Reporting by Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond of the Associated Press is included in this article.