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Retrial set for convicted murderer in 2009 Toppenish home invasion

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YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- Six years later, a 34-year-old man convicted of aggravated (premeditated) first-degree murder will now have his case go to trial again.

In 2011, Joel Cameron Condon was sentenced to life in prison without the chance for parole for a deadly home invasion. But that conviction was overturned by the Washington state Supreme Court two years ago.

Condon is serving life in prison for the death of 35-year-old Carmelo Ramirez in a 2009 home invasion. A jury convicted him of first-degree premeditated murder and other charges in 2011.

But after an appeal and overturned conviction, Condon is now up for retrial this year. It all stems from the charges filed by prosecutors and questions of whether what actually happened was premeditated.

“Joel Condon and his associate went into a house for the purpose of a home invasion robbery,” said Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic.

Court documents said Joel Condon and Jesus Lozano kicked down the door of a Toppenish home in January 2009, thinking it was the home of a drug dealer they planned to rob.

Instead, Carmelo Ramirez and his family were having dinner. A struggle occurred, Ramirez was shot, and died before reaching the hospital.

Lozano turned himself in weeks later and said a man called "Wak Wak" was the shooter, who was later identified by police as Condon.

“Joel Condon we believe committed a very serious crime back in 2009 and he was convicted of aggravated first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence,” said Brusic.

Condon was also convicted on charges of first-degree burglary and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm during his trial.

But an alternative charge of second-degree felony murder wasn't presented to the jury.

The Court of Appeals found there was "...sufficient evidence of premeditation,” but that it was "error to deny Condon's request" to include the lesser charge.

“The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the State of Washington disagreed with the trial court and said a jury instruction should have been given for second-degree felony murder,” said Brusic.

Charges that zero in on whether Ramirez's death was premeditated.

Court papers said the defense stated the shooting was "a sudden reaction, based in fear.” Premeditation is defined as "deliberate formation and reflection upon the intent to take a human life,” according to legal documents.

Questions in a case a new jury will now deliberate.

Condon's murder trial was scheduled for May but has been pushed back to October. Prosecutor Brusic said his burglary and gun charges will not change.

Condon has a felony criminal history apart from this case and a juvenile record dating back to 1996. A second-degree felony murder conviction for someone with his criminal record has a standard sentencing range of 24 to 33 years in prison. So life in prison would be off the table if Condon is not convicted again of first-degree premeditated murder.

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