33 Years Later, Vincent Chin’s Estate Still Seeks Justice

By Sameer Rao Jun 24, 2015

Yesterday marked the 33rd anniversary of the death of Vincent Chin, the Detroit Chinese-American man who was fatally bludgeoned by two white men who targeted him on the basis of his race. (They thought he was Japanese and thus "taking" their jobs.) The ensuing legal tribulations, which saw his killers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, receive lenient sentencing in a plea bargain, galvanized Asian-American advocacy around the country. Eventually,  the murderers were sentenced to settlement payment to Chin’s family.

To this day, Chin’s family has not seen a dime of the more than $8 million owed by Ebens, the man who struck Chin repeatedly with a baseball bat. According to a story published today on NBC News, Helen Zia, the activist and journalist who is the Chin estate’s executor, has struggled with keeping tabs on Ebens’s activities: 

"You’d think we’d be able to find some people to keep an eye on this," Zia said. "Every time I speak on this topic, I always mention, if any of you have time to do something here’s what we need. Believe me there have not been many hands." 

Ebens, who has served no jail time for his part in this crime, has claimed that his own poverty has not allowed him to pay towards the immense sum owed to the Chin estate. Despite this claim, an investigation conducted by journalist Emil Guillermo  uncovered that in 2013, Ebens was named executor of a friend’s estate that could have granted him over $100,000. Given the way in which the case was handled by state and federal prosecutors prior to the current ruling, this settlement is the only form of justice that the Chin estate can see.