After four months in the Arlington County jail and eight-day murder trial, a jubilant Richard Lee Earman was acuqitted yesterday of charges that he murdered Arlington real estate salesman ALan W. Foreman and his financee, Donna Shoemaker.
Earman was the last of three defendants to be cleared of the charges of killing Foreman and Shoemaker. The couple was found shot to death May 8 in Foreman's yellow Jaguar in the garage of his home at 1201 N. George Mason Dr. in Arlington.
Earman's trial was preceded by the dropping of charges against one defendant, Charles N. Silcox. As the trial proceeded a second man, Joseph H. Martin, was cleared, causing the prosecution to change its theory of the case in midstream. In addition, new evidence and 11th-hour changes in testimony confronted the jury before it began deliberations in midafternoon Monday.
"You can't win 'em all," Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Williams S. Burroughs said between gritted teeth as he left the courtroom immediately after Arlington Circuit Court Judge Charles H. Duff told Earman he was free to go.
Afterward, Burroughs said he would have no comment on either the verdict or his plans for further investigaton or prosecution in the Foreman-Shoemaker slayings.
The jury reached its verdict late yesterday morning after 7 1/2 hours of deliberation. One juror, who asked not to be identified, said the prosecution has failed to convince the jurors that there was enough evidence to place Earman at the scene of the slayings at the time they were committed.
But the "real crux of the whole thing," the juror said, was that the jury felt that the prosecution's three main witnesses who testified against Earman "just didn't have any credibility."
Burroughs has relied heavily on the testimony of Ray Moore Tugwell, a convicted burglar who testified that Earman had offered him $5,000 to kill Foreman, and two Arlington County jail inmates who testified that Earman has confessed separately to each of them that he had committed the murders.
Earman's attorney, John K. Zwerling, had devoted much of his defense to attacking the credibility of both the inmates, Larry G. Piper and Ronnie John James, as well as Tugwell. It was indicative of the weakness of the prosecution's case against his client, Zwerling said, that Burroughs "restored to such low life" in his attempt to prove it.
Earman himself said he was not angry at either the two inmates or Tugwell, whom he had known since childhood, for testifying against him.
"When they got on the stand and lied about me," Earman said, "the anger was really in me, but I'm a Christian and I prayed to forgive them. After all, they were only trying to get out of jail."
Earman also was doubtful that the community at large would ever uphold the jury's verdict. "You tell people something good about a man and you tell them somethilng bad and a month later, what do they remember?" Earman asked. "They remember the bad. A lot of people are going to say 'Oh, a slick lawyer got him off.' They're not going to believe I didn't do it."
Until his indictment last June, Earman had worked for Town and Country Properties, the same real estate firm for which Foreman had worked. Now, Earman said, he thought the trial had put an end to his real estate career and that he and his financee, Josette Shawn, were thinking of moving out of the area.
"If we stay," Earman said, "we're going to live with police harassment the rest of my life." Although his attorneys had not tried to hide from the jury the fact that Earman had served prison sentences for his part in what police called the "beltway burglaries" of 1965, it was this past record, Earman said, that made him a suspect in the first place.
It was his record as well, Earman said, that forced him to spend the last four months in jail while Martin and Silcox were out on bond, thus giving the two inmates an opportunity to become witnesses to the alleged confessions.
Surrounded by tearful family and friends and facing an uncertain future, Earman said he felt a great deal of sympathy for Sally Dixon, Foreman's mother, who had remained in the courtroom for much of the testimony.
"I felt so bad about her," Earman said. "The looks she gave me were so full of hate. I just wish I could have said something that would make her realize I didn't do it."
Who did kill Alan Foreman and Donna SHoemaker and why his again the province of speculation and mystery. At the beginning of the trial, Burroughs had painted a simple portrait.
It was Earman, he said, who had killed the couple to collect on a $56,000 insurance policy on Foreman's life.
The policy had been written by Martin, then a salesman for New York Life Insurance Co., and named Silcod, a Northern Virginia manager for the Door Stores Inc., as beneficiary.
By the end of the trial Burroughs was hinting at the possibility of two killers and speculating on a possible motive that included not only the life insurance policy, but Mafia hit men, concaine deals, death threats and mysterious loans.
But the question of what really happened that dark night in May seemed less important in the sunshine outside the Arlington courthouse. "I knew they (the jury) would find Lee innocent," said Josette Shawn. After all, she said, "there is a God," and besides, "there wasn't any rain on the jailyouse roof." referring to an old superstition among inmates that a wet roof means guilty verdict.