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Asian-American Groups Attack Verdict In Beating of Chinese-American

May 2, 1987 GMT

CINCINNATI (AP) _ The acquittal of a former Detroit autoworker on civil rights charges in the 1982 beating death of a Chinese-American was attacked by an Asian-American group as a symbol of injustice.

A U.S. District Court jury Friday found Ronald Ebens, 47, innocent of violating Vincent Chin’s civil rights in the attack outside a Highland Park, Mich., nightclub where Chin was having a bachelor party.

″We are not going to let this case die by any stretch of the imagination, because it will continue to be a symbol of the injustices that are perpetrated on Asian-Americans in this country,″ said Jim Tso, national president of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

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″No matter what happens, we are going to continue to pursue this case and make sure in the future there are no other Vincent Chins.″

Chin, 27, was fatally beaten with a baseball bat. Witnesses said there was an argument inside the nightclub between the two men and Chin was attacked a short time later.

The prosecution charged that Ebens had blamed Asians for problems in the U.S. auto industry, and killed Chin because of his race. The defense admitted Ebens killed Chin, but said he was drunk and had been provoked.

Ebens was convicted in federal court in 1984 and sentenced to 25 years, but the verdict was overturned on appeal because of legal errors. The retrial was held in Cincinnati because of publicity in Michigan.

″My heart sank 30 feet,″ said James Shimoura of American Citizens for Justice in Detroit. ″I fully expected a guilty verdict. I think every Asian- American shed a tear today because of this verdict.″

Jury foreman Jerry Heffron, a machinist from suburban Groesbeck, said the jury had a ″very, very tough decision to make″ in its two days of deliberations.

″It was no pleasure, but we came up with the only decision we could come up with,″ he said. ″What was it the judge said: beyond a reasonable doubt? There you have it. I agonized over this for two weeks. I’m still agonizing over it now.″

Ebens and his wife, Juanita, cried when the verdict was read. ″I’m still very sorry about the death that occurred, but I’m very relieved it is over after four years,″ Ebens said.

Ebens and his stepson, Michael Nitz, pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in Chin’s death in state court in Detroit. They were each sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $3,700.

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Those sentences prompted an outcry by Asian-American and civil rights groups. A federal grand jury later indicted Ebens and Nitz on the civil rights charges. Nitz was acquitted in the 1984 trial.

In March, Nitz reached a $65,500 settlement in a civil rights suit filed by Chin’s estate. A similar suit against Ebens was postponed pending the retrial.