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Charles Kaufman

Judge Charles Kaufman
Wayne County
Detroit, Michigan
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

Jim Brescoll
Attorney at Law

222 Merrill St.
Birmingham, Michigan 48009
(248) 540-4300
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.

Discussion

One thought on “Charles Kaufman

  1. The Chin case is a deeply political issue. I am a 3rd generation Japanese American woman who grew up in Detroit and was married there by Judge Kaufman in a civil ceremony with all my Asian relatives present. There is no way that
    I would consider Judge Kaufman racially biased
    by his war experiences anymore than I would
    consider my family biased by theirs. The Chin case was a legal matter and the judge consistent in his rulings throughout his career. I see that the
    Michigan legislature changed the leniency standards for first offenders just as they have changed the overly severely standards for drug possession. The law responds to societal changes.

    Posted by Margaret Ikeda | May 13, 2020, 8:28 am

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