gaveldecision.jpgA San Francisco Superior Court judge today sentenced a man to 31 years to life in prison for fatally stabbing another man in the Bayview District last year.

Silas Byers, 45, was arrested about a week after the killing of 49-year-old Douglas Johnson, of San Francisco, who was found dead in the 1600 block of La Salle Avenue on the night of June 22, 2009.

Johnson had been in the passenger seat of a parked car, which contained two other people, at the time.

The group had been using drugs that night, and Byers repeatedly approached the car, according to prosecutor Asit Panwala.

Panwala said both surviving witnesses testified that they saw Byers hand Johnson a bag of marijuana and then stab him in the chest.

One of the witnesses said he then saw Byers run up the street, but Byers later claimed he hadn’t been in the area that night.

A jury convicted Byers on April 27 of first-degree murder.

However, on Oct. 20, trial Judge Jerome Benson reduced the conviction to second-degree murder.

“He didn’t believe that there was sufficient evidence to show that the defendant was planning this murder,” Panwala said.

Panwala was not able to prove a motive for the killing, but one of the witnesses had heard the two had argued before, he said.

Johnson’s family attended today’s sentencing and spoke of Johnson as a beloved family member, the second of nine children.

“He can’t watch his grandchildren grow up or spend time with his kids anymore. (Byers) took that away from us,” one family member told the judge. “We hope and pray that Mr. Byers won’t step foot on the city streets as a free man any more.”

Benson sentenced Byers to 15 years to life for second-degree murder. The sentence was doubled because Byers had a prior strike conviction for robbery, and another year was added for the use of a knife in the murder.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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