No pardon for Billy the Kid: New Mexico’s Richardson

By Dennis J. Carroll

SANTA FE, New Mexico (BestGrowthStock) — New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said no on Friday to a pardon for Billy the Kid, the legendary 19th century outlaw who died young but whom frontier historians and storytellers have refused to let rest in peace.

“I’ve been working on this for eight years,” Richardson said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program on his last day in office. “You know the romanticism appealed to me to issue a pardon, but the facts and the evidence did not support it.”

Billy the Kid, whose real name was Henry McCarty but was known in New Mexico as William Bonney, was shot dead in 1881 by Sheriff Pat Garrett several months after breaking out of a jail where he was awaiting execution for killing Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady in 1878.

Bonney reportedly killed two deputies during the break-out.

The Kid was only 22 at the time of his death.

Then-governor Lew Wallace is said to have promised the Kid a pardon for the Brady murder if he would testify against three men accused of the brutal murder of a one-armed lawyer named Huston Chapman during what became known as the Lincoln County War of 1878, a bloody conflict between cattle barons.

Wallace’s promise of a pardon was not believed to have included the other nine to 21 killings the Kid is thought to have committed.

In a formal petition asking Richardson for the pardon, Albuquerque lawyer and historian Randi McGinn, who was asked by Richardson’s office to investigate the merits of a possible pardon, said:

“Mr. Bonney kept his end of the bargain by testifying before a grand jury against the men who murdered attorney Huston Chapman on February 18, 1879. Governor Wallace did not keep his end of the deal, which was to pardon Mr. Bonney for all outstanding charges, including the pending indictment related to the death of Sheriff William Brady. This injustice should be corrected”

Legend has it that Bonney, with the Brady indictment pending against him, had been one of the few Lincoln County residents who was not granted amnesty by Wallace for the dozens of killings that occurred during the Lincoln County skirmishes.

In considering the pardon, Richardson had asked New Mexicans for comments regarding their views and received about 900 responses. His office reported 430 people argued for a pardon, and 379 opposed it.

Richardson also heard personal pleas of support for the Kid, as well as from the descendants of Garrett and Wallace who argued that no pardon had ever been proffered.

Incoming Republican Gov. elect Susana Martinez, to be inaugurated on Saturday, described the Billy the Kid hubbub as a waste of time when there were more serious issues that should be addressed.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

No pardon for Billy the Kid: New Mexico’s Richardson