An Oakland man was sentenced today to 15 years to life in state prison for stabbing to death another man because of a misunderstanding about a bag of cans at a recycling center.Willie Clyde Harris, 59, murdered 57-year-old Sylvester Green on Aug. 31, 2007, because he thought Green had stole his bag of cans at Aaron Metals Co. at 750 150th Ave. in Oakland and was keeping the money for himself, prosecutor Shara Beltramo said.That wasn’t the case, but Green was unable to explain what had happened because a stroke he had suffered years earlier prevented him from speaking, Beltramo said.Green’s inability to speak cost him his life, the prosecutor said.Harris pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on March 11. The 15-year term he received today from Alameda County Superior Court Judge Joan Cartwright is the standard sentence for second-degree murder.Harris’s lawyer, Al Thews, declined to comment on the case.Green and Harris both made money by collecting cans and selling them at Aaron Metals, which is located near the home on Nevada Street where Green lived with family members, Beltramo said.The two men knew each other and on the morning of Aug. 31, 2007, Harris asked Green to cash in Harris’s large bag of cans because he didn’t have his ID card that day, according to the prosecutor.But Green also didn’t have his ID card and was only able to get cash for his smaller bag of cans, Beltramo said.Harris thought Green was keeping the money due to Harris to himself and followed Green as he walked home, she said.”The defendant (Harris) thought he was being taken and the victim (Green) couldn’t speak,” Beltramo said.Green tried to walk away from Harris but Harris kept following him and eventually stabbed him, the prosecutor said.Green was able to make it to his home but he was bleeding from his stab wounds and was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he died a short time later, Beltramo said.Harris eventually went back to the recycling center and found his bag of cans and belatedly realized that Green hadn’t cheated him, she said. Harris should have known that Green couldn’t speak because they knew each other and he had served as a pallbearer at the funeral of Green’s brother, Beltramo said.
Harris apparently needed all the money he could get because he was out of work, she said.Green worked as a telemarketer before he suffered his stroke, according to Beltramo.Harris had second thoughts about his guilty plea before he was sentenced today but Cartwright ruled there was no legal justification to allow him to renege on his plea agreement, Beltramo said.
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