Vincent Chin

From Academic Kids

Vincent Chin (陳果仁) (1955 - June 23, 1982) was a Chinese American industrial draftsman killed in 1982 in suburban Detroit, Michigan by two white autoworkers - Chrysler plant superintendent Ronald Ebens and his recently laid off step-son, Michael Nitz. The murder was controversial because of Ebens mistaking Chin as Japanese, and instigated the incident by declaring, "It's because of you little motherfuckers that we're out of work," referring to U.S. auto manufacturing jobs being lost to Japan.

Raised in Detroit, Chin was the adopted son and the only child of Bing Hing Chin (陳炳興) and Lily Chin (陳余瓊芳).

On the night of June 19, 1982, a fight ensued at the strip club where Chin was having his bachelor party. The group was thrown out and after a heated exchange of words subsequently parted ways. Ebens and Nitz searched the neighborhood for 20 to 30 minutes before finding Chin at a fast food restaurant. Chin tried to escape, but was held by Nitz while Ebens repeatedly bludgeoned Chin with a baseball bat. Chin was struck at least four times with the bat, including blows to the head. When rushed to the hospital, he was brain-dead and died after four days in a coma.

Ebens and Nitz were convicted in a county court for manslaughter, after a plea bargain brought the charges down from second-degree murder. They served no jail time and were fined $3,000 each plus court costs. Wayne County Circuit Judge Charles Kaufman was quoted as saying, "These weren't the kind of men you send to jail ... You don't make the punishment fit the crime; you make the punishment fit the criminal."

"What kind of law is this? What kind of justice?" Vincent Chin's mother, Lily Chin, angrily asked. "This happened because my son is Chinese. If two Chinese killed a white person, they must go to jail, maybe for their whole lives ... Something is wrong with this country."

In 1983, journalist Helen Zia and lawyer Lisa Chan led the fight for federal charges against the two. A 1984 federal civil rights case against the men found Ebens guilty and sentenced him to 25 years in prison; Nitz was acquitted. After an appeal, Ebens' conviction was overturned on a legal technicality in 1986 -- a federal appeals court found an attorney improperly coached prosecution witnesses. After a retrial in 1987, Ebens was cleared of the charges by a jury in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Later, a civil suit against Ebens was settled out of court for US $1.5 million, which would be paid to Chin's estate over time. But shortly before the verdict, Ebens disposed of his assets and fled.

The case of Vincent Chin became a rallying point for the Asian Pacific American community and is often considered the beginning of the pan-Asian American movement.

Chin was the subject of an 1989 Academy-award nominated documentary by Christine Choy called, "Who Killed Vincent Chin?"

In September of 1987, not wanting to be reminded of her son's tragedy, Vincent Chin's mother, Lily Chin, moved from Oak Park, Michigan back to Guangzhou, China where she had grown up. She later returned to the United States for medical treatments in late 2001 and died on June 9, 2002.

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