A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered the acquittal on felony murder charges yesterday of a man accused of being the lookout in a Georgetown burglary last May in which a D.C. police officer was shot to death.

Judge Truman A. Morrison III granted the motion for acquittal sought by the defense despite arguments by the prosecution that the jury should be allowed to decide the guilt or innocence of Derwin B. Straite, who was charged with felony murder for his alleged role as lookout during the burglary in which Officer Robert Remington was killed.

The ruling leaves two charges, burglary and attempted theft, remaining against Straite, 22, who has been on trial this week with codefendant Michael A. Perry Jr., 18. Both live in Northwest Washington.

Perry is accused of shooting Remington with the officer's gun during a struggle after Remington responded to an early-morning burglar alarm at Hugo Boss, a men's clothing store in the 1500 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW. All charges against Perry remain for the jury to decide.

Attorney Steven A. Kiersh, who represents Straite, argued that Straite could not have foreseen that a police officer would be killed. Kiersh said that neither Straite nor Perry was armed, that the burglary occurred when the store was closed and that Straite ran away when police arrived.

"Is it natural and probable to think that Mr. Straite . . . would expect that the person he went there with . . . is going to wrestle a service revolver away and a shoot a police officer?" Kiersh argued to the judge. "It is not a natural and probable result and Mr. Straite cannot be held liable."

Yesterday's ruling -- a rarity, according to many local lawyers -- brought a quick and angry response from Gary Hankins, chairman of the labor committee of the Fraternal Order of Police, who said it symbolized "an unforgivable cheapening of the lives of Remington and all police officers and innocent citizens."

Hankins accused Morrison, who was a top criminal defense attorney with the D.C. Public Defender Service before his appointment to the bench 10 years ago, of "shedding his judicial robes and putting on the mantle of a defense advocate as he stretched and warped the law . . . . "

However, Yale Kamisar, a professor and criminal law expert at the University of Michigan Law School, said the ruling appeared to be "a perfectly plausible result" based on the D.C. statute defining felony murder in such a case. "To hit this guy {Straite} with felony murder seems to be like hitting him with lightning," said Kamisar. " . . . Here this guy is a lookout. How is he different from a thousand other lookouts in a thousand other burglaries?"

Kamisar agreed with defense attorneys who said the ruling was a rarity, explaining that defense motions for acquittal -- based on any theory -- are seldom granted, coming as they do before the defense has presented its case. "How often will a judge, without hearing the defense, say the government does not have anything? But this seems one of those times when granting {it} seems appropriate."

The doctrine of felony murder dates to common law England and says that a person who was not directly involved in a killing may be convicted if he was involved in a felony that led to the killing. Prosecutors in the District have a reputation for being aggressive in charging defendants with felony murder.

According to Kiersh, the D.C. statute distinguishes between the elements of proof required depending upon what type of crime led to the killing. Because crimes such as rape, arson, robbery and armed burglary are "so inherently dangerous" an accomplice may be convicted of felony murder simply because he was present when the killing occurred.

But in crimes such as unarmed burglary, the underlying felony in Straite's case, the elements of proof are stricter, Kiersh said. The prosecution, he said, must show that the killing was a "natural and probable consequence" of the crime.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Martin had argued in court that it was reasonable and foreseeable for any burglar breaking into a store to anticipate the arrival of armed police officers, a confrontation and a shooting and death. He argued that it was a close issue, which the jury should be allowed to decide.

Closing arguments in the case are scheduled to begin Monday.