OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- People whose family members were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing said they were shocked and dismayed that Bob Macy and his staff were banned from prosecuting Terry Nichols on 160 murder counts related to the bombing.
"I feel very betrayed," said Kathleen Treanor, who lost her daughter, Ashley Eckles, 4, and her in-laws in the April 19, 1995, attack.
"We're just helpless to do anything about this. It's just out of our hands."
On Monday, Macy -- the Oklahoma County District Attorney -- was found by District Judge Ray Dean Linder to be too emotionally involved in the bombing to prosecute the case ethically.
Linder also found that comments Macy made to the media violated a gag order in the case.
Macy has 30 days to challenge the decision to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, a step he said he is taking. No new prosecutor will be named by the attorney general's office until the appeal is decided.
A few victims called or e-mailed Macy Tuesday after learning of his removal.
"I certainly understand why a judge must be unbiased," Treanor said. "I certainly don't understand why a district attorney isn't allowed to get on board with his team. I love Bob Macy."
At the hearing, two defense experts on legal ethics testified that prosecutors must stay professionally detached from their cases so their judgment on how to proceed is not clouded.
They said Macy made comments to the media that hurt Nichols chances of a fair trial and proved the district attorney was too emotionally involved.
Macy wrote an opinion piece in The Oklahoman on Dec. 12 in which he said Nichols "should pay, not merely with his freedom, but with his life."
He also talked to CBS News in an interview aired after the dedication of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
"I've sent several people to death row for killing one person.
I certainly feel that death would be the appropriate punishment for killing 19 babies," he said.
Of the 168 who died in the bombing, 19 were children.
Diane Leonard, whose husband Don Leonard was killed in the bombing, said the comments did not warrant Macy's dismissal from the case.
"I don't know the law like this judge does, but the comments didn't seem out of line for a prosecutor who has made it clear he is going to prosecute this person for this crime and is going to seek the death penalty," she said.
Nichols was convicted in federal court and sentenced to life in prison for manslaughter and conspiracy involving the deaths of eight federal agents in the bombing.
Another federal jury convicted Timothy McVeigh on murder and conspiracy charges in the bombing. He is awaiting execution.