A man who shot and killed former Major League Baseball player Danny Clyburn Jr. has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter of his lifelong friend.
Derrick McIlwain, 38, shot Clyburn in the heart with an illegal gun on February 7, 2012, during an early-morning argument in an abandoned house in Clyburn’s hometown of Lancaster, South Carolina, according to The Herald Online.
McIlwain was originally charged with murder, telling police he was angry at Clyburn ‘never doing anything for anybody in the ’hood’ after starting to play baseball, however a plea was negotiated on a claim of self-defense and the fact that Clyburn, 37, had marijuana in his system when he was killed. The victim’s sister, Alisha Clyburn, was outraged with the sentence.
‘That 15 years is not worth a person’s life,’ she told McIlwain in court. ‘My brother didn’t have any gun. You should have been a man.’
Assistant public defender William Frick said his client feared for his life against the bigger, stronger Clyburn, who had ‘made it out of the ’hood and out of Lancaster’.
‘Unfortunately he had a firearm, a gun,’ Frick told Circuit Court Judge Brian Gibbons.
‘But (McIlwain) didn’t get out of the ’hood. He didn’t get out of Lancaster. A lot of people carry small pistols around the ’hood in Lancaster for protection. I don’t like it, but it is a fact of life.’
According to The Herald Online, McIlwain – who had no job, no permanent home and a string of previous offenses – was angry that Clyburn hadn’t given enough back to his home after becoming famous.
McIlwain had expected Clyburn to buy him drinks and the two began to fight, with Clyburn saying he owed McIlwain nothing.
McIlwain shot Clyburn once in the heart with an illegal gun.
A statement McIlwain gave police after his arrest was read in court Friday.
It stunned people in the court – even some who had heard it at previous hearings – with its harsh reality and warped rationale
‘When he played,’ McIlwain told police, ‘Clyburn never did anything for anybody in the ’hood.’
The shooting happened in a tiny house where nobody actually lived.
It was a party spot where some men drank and played cards and just a few doors down from where Clyburn grew up.
Clyburn, who lived in California, was only in Lancaster that day in 2012 to visit his father, sister and two children, who live with his ex-wife.
He earned about $200,000 a year when playing in the majors – but most years earned far less.
That money sent to his family.
As a young player in the minor leagues, Clyburn was considered a great prospect.
He was what baseball people call a ‘five-tool player’ – he could hit for average, hit for power, run, field and throw.
McIlwain claimed after the killing that he should face no charges under South Carolina’s ‘stand your ground’ law, but a judge shot that down.
Solicitor Doug Barfield conceded that he had to offer a deal in the case because a jury in a murder trial could have agreed that McIlwain had acted in self-defense – and McIlwain might have never been held accountable for the killing.
Clyburn’s father, Danny Clyburn Sr., attended every one of the court hearings about the killing of his son.
On Friday, he spoke quietly and with dignity about getting through the anger of such a senseless killing.
He said he “doesn’t know all of what happened that night,” but he does know that his only son is dead from a gunshot.