Judge denies McIlwain motion of self-defense in Clyburn murder

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By Jesef Williams

The Lancaster man charged last year in the killing of a former professional baseball player had his motion for self-defense dismissed last week.


Derrick McIlwain, 38, appeared before Circuit Court Judge Brooks Goldsmith in General Sessions court on Thursday, March 21, to see if he could avoid prosecution on the grounds of the “Castle Doctrine.”

That law justifies use of deadly force when a person feels his or her life is threatened.

McIlwain is charged with murder for the Feb. 7, 2012, shooting death of Danny Clyburn Jr.

Early that morning, Lancaster police were called to a home in the 600 block of North Market Street about a shooting. 

When officers arrived, Clyburn was lying unresponsive in the front yard, according to incident reports.

Witnesses reported that McIlwain was arguing with Clyburn moments before he was shot.

According to police and court records, McIlwain admitted to shooting Clyburn, but said he did it because he became afraid of him after two began arguing.

The two men – who were cousins and lifelong friends – reportedly had a prior altercation in 2010.

Goldsmith, in his ruling Thursday, said McIlwain didn’t prove that his use of deadly force falls under inclusion in the Protection of Persons and Property Act. The “Castle Doctrine” is included in that act.

“The evidence fails to show that (McIlwain) could have reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself,” Goldsmith said. 

“Therefore, defendant failed to meet his burden and thus the court denies his motion.”

McIlwain, who’s been jailed at the Lancaster County Detention Center, was also charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime in connection to Clyburn’s death.

About Clyburn

Clyburn, 37, a Lancaster native, was said to have been back in town visiting when he was shot.

The former Lancaster High School baseball player was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992, though he didn’t make his MLB debut until 1997.

Clyburn played in the majors as an outfielder for three years. 

He first played 13 games with the Baltimore Orioles, in 1997 and 1998, and then played 28 games for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999.

Between 1998 and 1999, Clyburn hit four home runs and had a .221 batting average, according to statistics from ESPN.com.


Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152