A former Vallejo man whose 2002 murder conviction was tossed out appeared in court Wednesday for a mental competency hearing.

Prosecutors are seeking to retry Dennis McGraw, 66, for the July 13, 2002 gunshot slaying of a neighbor.

McGraw, brother of late baseball great Tug McGraw and the uncle of country music star Tim McGraw, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2002.

Following an appeal, a judge overturned the conviction in 2005, finding McGraw had not received adequate defense counsel during his trial.

Prosecutors have been trying to retry the case, but in 2007 McGraw was found mentally incompetent.

Subsequent doctors' reports, however, have found that McGraw is able to stand trial, leading to further court proceedings.

McGraw is accused of gunning down 31-year-old Jason Garfield with a .22-caliber rifle as Garfield begged for mercy on the sidewalk in front of their apartment building at 522 El Dorado St. in Vallejo.

The defense claimed Garfield and McGraw had been feuding and that Garfield threatened and harassed McGraw well before the killing.

On Wednesday, Vallejo attorney Dan Russo, who is representing McGraw, presented an expert witness who testified that McGraw -- who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia -- couldn't rationally assist his attorney.

Solano County Deputy District Attorney Karen Jensen, however, said McGraw's mental health issues do not prevent him from standing trial. She presented evidence to show


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McGraw is capable of thinking rationally and understands the court proceedings and his role in them.

Superior Court Judge Ramona Garrett set a March 25 court date in Vallejo to hear arguments before ruling on McGraw's mental status.

Contact staff writer Tony Burchyns at tburchyns@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6831. Follow him on Twitter @tburchyns.

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