No Pardon for Outlaw "Billy the Kid"

Billy the KidPoliticsCrime, Law and JusticeCrimeHomicide

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Billy the Kid, the Old West outlaw who killed at least three lawmen and tried to cut a deal from jail with territorial authorities, won't be pardoned, Gov. Bill Richardson said Friday.

The prospect of a pardon for the notorious frontier figurenearly 130 years after his death drew international attention to

New Mexico, centering on whether Billy the Kid had been promised apardon from New Mexico's territorial governor in return fortestimony in killings he had witnessed.

But the facts of the case didn't support a pardon, Richardsonsaid Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America." He had been formallypetitioned to grant one.

The proposed pardon covered the 1878 killing of Lincoln CountySheriff William Brady. Billy the Kid was shot to death by SheriffPat Garrett in 1881, a few months after escaping from jail where hewas awaiting hanging in Brady's death.

He killed two deputies while escaping. The pardon petition didnot cover those deaths, but Richardson said he had to consider themin his decision.

Garrett's grandson, J.P. Garrett of Albuquerque, sent an e-mailto The Associated Press: "Yea!!! No pardon! Looks like it will bea great new year!!!!"

According to legend, Billy the Kid killed 21 people, one foreach year of his life. The New Mexico Tourism Department puts thetotal closer to nine.

Richardson, the former U.N. ambassador and Democraticpresidential candidate, waited until the last minute to announcehis decision. His term ends at midnight Friday.

The historical record on the pardon is unclear, and Richardsonstaff members told him in August there are no written documents"pertaining in any way" to a pardon in the papers of theterritorial governor, Lew Wallace, who served in office from 1878to 1881.

Wallace's great-grandson, William Wallace of Westport, Conn.,said Richardson "followed the correct, rational track in forgoinga pardon for a convicted murderer."

Richardson said he decided against a pardon "because of a lackof conclusiveness and the historical ambiguity as to why Gov.Wallace reneged on his promise."

Richardson set up a website in mid-December to hear from thepublic after Albuquerque attorney Randi McGinn submitted a formalpetition for a pardon. His office received 809 e-mails and lettersfrom all over the world in the survey that ended Sunday, with 430favoring a pardon and 379 opposed.

McGinn said she was disappointed by Richardson's decision, butthrilled at renewed interest in the history prompted by the pardonissue. She said she hoped people would come to New Mexico, seeletters Billy the Kid wrote to Lew Wallace, walk down Lincoln'ssingle street and decide for themselves whether Billy the Kid was"the Robin Hood of the West or a notorious killer."

McGinn argued Wallace promised to pardon the Kid, also known asWilliam Bonney or Henry McCarty.

She said the Kid kept his end of the bargain, but theterritorial governor did not.

The Kid was a ranch hand and gunslinger in the bloody LincolnCounty War, a feud between factions vying to dominate the dry goodsbusiness and cattle trading in southern New Mexico.

J.P. Garrett has said there's no proof Gov. Wallace offered apardon - and may have tricked the Kid into testifying.

"The big picture is that Wallace obviously had no intent topardon Billy - even telling a reporter that fact in an interview onApril 28, 1881," he wrote. "So there was no 'pardon promise' thatWallace broke. But I do think there was a pardon 'trick,' in thatWallace led Billy on to get his testimony."

He also said that when the Kid was awaiting trial in Brady'skilling, "he wrote four letters for aid, but never used the word'pardon."'

William Wallace said his ancestor never promised a pardon andthat pardoning the Kid "would declare Lew Wallace to have been adishonorable liar."

The Kid wrote Lew Wallace in 1879, volunteering to testify ifWallace would annul pending charges against him, including a murderindictment in Brady's death.

A tantalizing part of the question is a clandestine meetingWallace had with the Kid in Lincoln in March 1879. The Kid'sletters leave no doubt he wanted Wallace to at least grant himimmunity from prosecution.

Wallace, in arranging the meeting, responded: "I have authorityto exempt you from prosecution if you will testify to what you sayyou know."

"It seems to me that when the government makes a deal with you,it should keep its promise," McGinn said after filing the request.

But when the Las Vegas, N.M., Gazette asked Wallace shortlybefore he left office about prospects of sparing the Kid's life,Wallace replied: "I can't see how a fellow like him should expectany clemency from me."

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