Judge Charles Kaufman
retired in 1992, died in 2004
On June 19, 1982, Vincent Chin was beaten to death by two unemployed white auto workers who mistook him as Japanese.
A 27-year-old Chinese-American, Chin was celebrating his last days of bachelorhood in a Detroit bar. An argument broke out between him and Ronald Ebens, a Chrysler Motors foreman. Ebens shouted ethnic insults, the fight moved outside, and before onlookers, Ebens bludgeoned Chin to death with a baseball bat while Michael Nitz, Ebens’s stepson and a laid-off Chrysler assembly-line worker, held Chin down. Chin died on June 23, 1982.
In the ensuing trial, Ebens and Nitz were convicted of manslaughter, and Judge Kaufman sentenced both to three years probation and imposed a $3,780 fine. A U.S. Department of Justice civil rights prosecution was initially successful but was overturned, Ebens v. U.S., 800 F.2d 1422 (1986).
The lenient sentences prompted discussion of legal reforms in Michigan, culminating in the passage of the Crime Victims Rights Act in 1985 and mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines
In 1987, a civil suit against Ebens and Nitz was settled for $1.5 million. Ebens’ homeowners’ policy paid about $20,000. Nitz has made regular payments. Ebens boasted that Chin’s mother would never see the money. Ebens placed his assets in his wife’s name and lives in Nevada. If you can assist in any way, contact
Attorney at Law
222 Merrill St.
Birmingham, Michigan 48009
Fax: (248) 540-0220
Lily Chin, Vincent Chin’s mother, moved back to Canton Province, China, until she returned to the U.S. for medical treatment. She died on June 9, 2002, a few days before the 20th anniversary of her son’s death.