MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The head of the Wisconsin Parole Board agreed Friday to overturn the parole of a convicted murderer at the request of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers after the governor came under fire from rival Republicans seeking to overthrow him in November.
Evers sent a letter Friday to John Tate, the commission’s chairman, asking him to reconsider the parole of Douglas Balsewicz, 54. He was due to be released from prison on Tuesday after serving less than 25 years of his 80-year sentence for the 1997 stabbing death of his wife, Johanna Balsewicz. Evers does not have the authority to revoke a convict’s parole himself.
Evers met Johanna Balsewicz’s family at the Capitol before sending the letter. The governor wrote that the family had not had a chance to fully respond to the move.
“I do not agree with this decision, and I have considerable concerns about whether Johanna’s family had sufficient opportunity to express their memories, perspectives and concerns before this decision was made. taken,” Evers wrote.
Tate, an Evers appointee, later said in an email to The Associated Press and the Department of Corrections that he understood the governor’s concerns about the lack of victim participation and was rescinding the release. Conditional by Douglas Balsewicz.
Earlier in the week, Tate told the Racine Journal Times that it was extremely unlikely that Balsewicz’s parole would be revoked at this point unless he did something to justify it. Tate, who is president of the Racine City Council, said overturning Balsewicz’s parole would likely result in a lawsuit that the state would lose. Tate did not immediately respond to an email from the AP Friday night.
Online court records did not mention a lawyer for Balsewicz. They said he represented himself while seeking reimbursement of his DNA testing surcharge in 2010.
“Oh my God, are you kidding me? Johanna’s sister, Kim Cornils, said when the AP told her in a phone call that Tate had agreed to overturn Douglas Balsewicz’s parole. “Oh my God, thank you. Thank you so much. This is good.”
Cornils was among Johanna’s relatives who met Evers at the Capitol earlier that day. She said in an interview immediately after the meeting that the family did not receive official notification from the state Department of Corrections that Balsewicz would be on parole until Thursday. She said she warned Evers that the November election was coming up.
“I said, more or less, you’re going to be held responsible for this. Unless changes are made, it won’t be good,” she said.
Johanna was 23 when she was stabbed more than 40 times at her West Allis home. Her husband was sentenced to 80 years in prison as part of a plea deal.
Douglas Balsewicz was first eligible for parole in 2017 and was denied. The Wisconsin Parole Board said in a statement that he appeared before the board for a fifth review on April 14.
Republican gubernatorial candidates Rebecca Kleefisch, Kevin Nicholson and Tim Michels have all criticized parole. Nicholson and Kleefisch asked Evers to fire Tate.
Paul Farrow, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, accused Evers in a statement of giving more consideration to criminals than to victims.
“It shouldn’t have sparked widespread public outrage (over Balsewicz’s parole) for Tony Evers to finally consider doing the right thing,” Farrow said.