After a lengthy debate that has drawn national and international attention, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has decided not to grant pardon to long-dead outlaw Billy the Kid.
Mr. Richardson announced his decision his last day in office Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Mr. Richardson said the facts of the case didn’t support a pardon, which he had received a formal petition to grant two weeks ago. Had the pardon been granted, it would have covered an amnesty offer supposedly given to the Kid by then-Territorial Governor Lew Wallace for the1878 killing of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady. The Kid, also known as William H. Bonney and Henry McCarty, was shot dead by Sheriff Pat Garret after he killed two more individuals in law enforcement.
“I’ve decided not to pardon Billy the Kid because [of] a lack of conclusiveness and also the historical ambiguity as to why Governor Wallace reneged on his pardon,” Mr. Richardson said Friday morning on the show.
Mr. Richardson said what “tipped the scales” for him in the decision was the Kid’s decision to kill the two law enforcement officers after the unfulfilled pardon offer.
“It was a very close call,” Mr. Richardson said.
In an e-mail to the Associated Press, Garrett’s grandson, J.P. Garrett, wrote, “Yea!!! No pardon! Looks like it will be a great new year!!!!”
Mr. Richardson said he met with the descendents of the lawmen who opposed the Kid in the late 1800s, as well as many others, prior to announcing his final decision. The governor’s office received some 430 notifications in favor of pardon and 379 against from the public. Comments flooded in from all over the world.
“Well, this is American history,” Mr. Richardson offered as an explanation to why he bothered with the gunslinger’s case. “This is New Mexico’s history. … It’s living history. We should not neglect the historical record and the history of the American West.”
Mr. Richardson admitted that the case provided “great publicity” for New Mexico and for the state’s history.
Mr. Richardson said the Kid’s case had fascinated him for eight years. His consideration of the pardon drew criticism from some who called the Kid a murderer and said the case was a waste of time, while others commended the governor for seeking to settle the historical issue.