The acquittal of Richard Lee Earman yesterday left Earman and his former codefendants shaking hands and toasting each other, and wondering how they can pick up the pieces of their lives.

The lengthy consultations with their attorneys, the numerous court and the personal trauma have, in their words, "bankrupted" Charles N. Silcox, "ruined" Joseph N. Martin and "finished" Earman.

All three, still in the beginning years of their careers, have incurred debts of about $20,000 each in legal fees to defend themselves against murder charges that were susbequently dropped by the prosecutor or found sales by a jury.

They have lost friends, their families have endured enormous mental stress, and Earman and Martin apparently have lost their jobs. The three men hold Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney William S. Burroughs responsible.

"I think he has made one hell of a mistake and he has ruined three people's lives," said Silcox.

"In this case prosecution became persecution," Earman said. Martin said he "was disappointed" with Burroughs.

Following indictment by a grand jury and nearly four months in jail, Earman acquitted by an Arlington jury yesterday of murdering real estate agent Alan W. Foreman and his fiancee, Donna Shoemaker, last May 7.Burroughs last month dropped charges had been pending against them for more than three months.

"We developed probable cause (that the three men committed the murders) and a grand jury indicted them," Burroughs said after the trial yesterday. "But it (the investigation) didn't stop there. We turned up more evidence and exonerated them (Martin and Silcox). The evidence indicates Martin and Silcox are innocent. I have no comment on Earman."

Whether he could re-indict Earman on other charges is "legally arguable," Burroughs said yesterday, but he would not say whether he might try. He said the investigation into the murders is continuing.

In the months following the indictments, Burroughs theorized in court that Foreman and Shoemaker were murdered by Earman to collect on the dead man's $56,000 life insurance policy. Martin, then an agent for the New York Life Insurance Co., had sold Foreman the policy and Silcox was the beneficiary.

After Burroughs dropped charges against Silcox last month, Silcox said publicly that he had no hard feelings against Burroughs and would like "to shake his hand."

Yesterday, Silcox said he had made that remark on the advice of his lawyer because "we didn't know if (dropping the charges) was some kind of ploy."

Now that the case has been adjudicated, Silcox spoke in bitter tones: "No I don't want to shake his hand, not at all. He says the motive was for his insurance policy. Sometimes I think he was just trying to (get convictions in the case) for a feather in his cap."

Burroughs said yesterdday that "of course" he has sympathy for the emotional and financial strain on Silcox and Martin, but that the reason charges were not dropped sooner was because "Martin didn't tell us the whole story until the (Earman) trial began.

"Silcox was in a peculiar position" because the case against him was linked to Martin, Burroughs said yesterday. After further investigation and a second lie detector test showed Silcox to be innocent, Burroughs dropped charges against him on Sept. 14.

Silcox orginally had lied to police about the case at Martin's insistence, Burroughs said. Burroughs dropped charges against Martin last week after Martin said that only on May 8 he had received an anonymous death threat warning that he would be killed if he "mentioned any names."

Martin told Burroughs that he had once heard Foreman say he wanted to impress a man named "McGowan." Martin also told the prosecutor that Earman had told him that Foreman was a cocaine dealer "into a loan shark named McGowan."

In court testimony, McGowan was identified as David A. (Shags) McGowan, a leading rackets figure in the District of Columbia recently convicted on cocaine charges. McGowan, through his attorney, has denied knowing anything of the double murder.

Martin had not come forth with the testimony earlier, Burroughs said, because he was afraid.

Earman, 35, said he now is penniless. "I have borrowed from practically every relative I have. I figure I'm $15,000 in debt," he said yesterday.

He said he is going to ask for his real estate sales job back at Town and Country Properties, Inc., but is skeptical that he will get it because of all the publicity surrounding the case.

Silcox, 22, said he has refinanced everything he can to pay legal fees and expects a bank to reposses his $16,000 cabin cruiser. "I don't know where the money's coming from; it's not going to drop out of the sky," he said. Silcox has kept his job as a district manager for Door Stores.

"I think financially everything that I had worked for is gone," said Martin. "And from a reputation point of view, all the judges in the world could come out and say I'm innocent and I don't know that it would change anyone's public opinion of me."

Martin, 26, was suspended by New York Life after he was indicted, and subsequently resigned from the firm. He is now a salesman at a car dealership.