To go against what Judge Sykes recommended – it’s killing the family once again. We’re all back to ’97 and history is repeating itself” – the victim’s sister.
John Tate, Tony Evers’ embattled Parole Commission chairman, is now refusing to reverse his decision to release a racist wife-killer because he’s worried there could be a lawsuit. In other words, he’s worried about the legal risk of upholding his own controversial decision.
John Tate, who is also chair of Racine’s City Council, made his first public comments on the looming release of Douglas Balsewicz, now 54, to his hometown newspaper, The Racine Journal-Times. He falsely stated to the newspaper that he can’t reverse himself. Balsewicz, of Milwaukee County, is set to be released on May 17 after serving only 24 years of an 80-year sentence and over the objections of the victim’s family.
The newspaper wrote, “according to Tate, it’s too late for Balsewicz’s parole to be rescinded unless it is because of Balsewicz’s own actions.”
That’s just not true. John Tate could cite new input in the case or concerns that the offender can reintegrate into the community, for example. In short, there’s a way to do it.
As Parole Commission chairman, we’ve confirmed that John Tate DOES have the authority to reverse his decision to release Balsewicz, who was convicted of stabbing his wife 42 times in front of the couple’s toddler children, whom he then left with their mother’s body overnight.
The criminal complaint gives a racist motive, saying Balsewicz grew enraged because he thought his wife was dancing with black men and didn’t want his children to “grow up as hoodlums the way black people live.”
John Tate’s Response
John Tate told the Journal-Times on May 10 that if he reversed the decision, he’s worried the state could be sued. He believes Balsewicz isn’t the person he was 24 years ago when he stabbed his wife Johanna Rose 42 times, including 20 times to the neck and head, and then tried to go to Taco Bell, leaving their 4 and 2-year-old kids in the house with the body.
The eldest child was unable to call 911 as his mother had previously taught him to do because his mother’s lifeless body was on top of the phone. A fact that would haunt him throughout his life, according to family.
The kids were found walking down the street the next day, holding hands, one in a diaper, and covered in their mother’s blood.
Johanna Rose’s family, which has suffered generational trauma from the 1997 homicide, is adamantly opposed to Balsewicz’s release. Judge Diane Sykes sentenced Balsewicz to 80 years and said she wanted a future parole board to know he was not a candidate for early release. He’s served less than 25.
“Justice in our society isn’t supposed to be vengeance,” Tate told the newspaper of why he wants to let Balsewicz out. He wants Balsewicz and other inmates to be “positive assets to society.”
We asked the victim’s family about John Tate’s comments to the Journal-Times.
“Douglas wasn’t worried about vengeance when he repeated stabbed my sister because she wanted a divorce,” her sister, Kim Binder Cornils told Wisconsin Right Now.
“This isn’t about vengeance! This is about keeping a wild animal behind bars. She only had a life of 23 years. Still a baby. He has the rest of his lige. Where is the Justice. He will be someone’s neighbor! He will be someone’s boyfriend. To go against what Judge Sykes recommended – it’s killing the family once again. We’re all back to ’97 and history is repeating itself.”
When Evers appointed John Tate, he openly pledged to increase the number of inmates paroled.
Meanwhile Gov. Evers, for days, has refused to answer questions about the case, saying only, through a spokesman that he can’t reverse the Parole Commission. However, the governor could condemn the decision to release Balsewicz, he could call on Tate to reverse the decision, and he has authority to remove Tate for any reason from the Commission.
The family has been very critical of Evers on its Facebook page, Justice for JoJo. Johanna’s niece wrote: “In almost every news article Governor Tony Evers is silent !! This is not ok !!”
Tate, a former social worker and Racine alderman has a history of anti-police comments, and he helped found a group called “Our Wisconsin Revolution” that is openly opposed to truth-in-sentencing laws and other legislation to keep criminals behind bars longer. Yet he has the sole authority in Wisconsin right now to decide which inmates to release early.
Evers campaigned on reducing the prison population in half and expanding early release.
Balsewicz does not have an unblemished record behind bars; he had a “minor conduct report” as recently as 2016, the Parole Commission says.