NM Governor: No Pardon For Outlaw Billy The Kid

(NYTIMES)

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico announced Friday that he would not pardon Billy the Kid, prompting a sigh of relief from descendants of the sheriff who killed the Old West outlaw as well as the frontier governor who appeared to hold out the possibility of clemency about a century ago.

Interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on his final day in office, Mr. Richardson said that he decided against absolving the Kid for some of his past crimes, an issue that had fascinated him throughout his two terms as governor, because the historical record was too hazy.

Historical documents show that Lew Wallace, the former territorial governor, held out the possibility of a deal if the Kid testified before a grand jury about a killing he had witnessed. Billy the Kid did testify, but the proposed pardon never happened, something the outlaw grumbled about as he managed to escape the law, get caught and then escape again, only to be gunned down in the dark by a frontier lawman in 1881.

Some historians suggest that Mr. Wallace never explicitly offered a pardon to the outlaw, who also went by the names Henry McCarty and William H. Bonney, and might have been trying to trick him. Shortly before Mr. Wallace left office, he told a newspaper: “I can’t see how a fellow like him should expect any clemency from me.”

Mr. Richardson’s decision to consider the pardon for Billy the Kid provoked strong reactions in the history-minded state of New Mexico — even more so because people who claim family links to the central characters in the drama still live there.
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