Relatives of the murder victims have waited five years for justice, and Thursday's ruling means they will have to wait even longer.
After the decision was made, a King County prosecutor called Pam Mantle to assure her his colleagues would fight the judge's decision to throw out the death penalty against Joseph McEnroe and Michelle Anderson, who are charged with murdering six members of her family.
"You put your trust in this justice system. I believe in it, and keep getting let down," Mantle said.
Anderson and McEnroe allegedly killed Anderson's parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson; her brother, Scott; his wife, Erica; and their children, 5-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Nathan.
Erica's brother, Joe, is furious at Thursday's decision.
"I don't believe in capital punishment, but if anybody should get capital punishment it should be those two," he said.
Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell ruled that prosecutors erred in considering the strength of their evidence to prove guild against the accused killers. Ramsdell blindsided the Mantle family when he wrote that prosecutors should only have weighed if mitigating circumstances guided their death penalty decision.
"We would expect the justice system is there to protect society from animals like this. It became obvious to us today that that's not the case," said Tony Mantle.
McEnroe's trial was set to start this spring, and the Mantles say Thursday's ruling could push it back two years, if it happens at all.
"We would like to see some kind of closure," Tony Mantle said. "We really believe we are entitled to hear 12 people say guilty."
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg issued a statement saying his office believes the ruling was wrong and will appeal on behalf of the lives lost and because the possible future impact on future cases.