Archive for the ‘Fun Facts’ Category
Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
For all of you Wild, Wild West aficionados out there, here is a post that is sure to be interesting!
Billy the Kid has long been one of the many names associated with the Wild West, alongside the Bob Dalton Gang, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cole Younger, Jesse James, and more. What you may not know is that the long dead Kid may be up for a pardon from current New Mexico governor Bill Richardson. So, why is the notorious Billy the Kid up for this pardon, you ask? Well, let me explain by starting with a little history lesson.
Billy the Kid—born William Henry McCarty, but also known as William H. Bonney—originally came from New York. While still young, his family relocated to New Mexico. Unfortunately, by the time the Kid was fifteen years old his mother had passed away from tuberculosis. It was at this point that many sources say the Kid began his life of crime—starting with stealing and progressing to murder. Other sources state that without parental guidance, the Kid simply got a bad start in life. He joined the wrong groups and wound up running from the law. One particular misstep in the Kid’s life was his affiliation with the Lincoln County War. As a result of one of the many ambushes that occurred, Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady and one of his deputies were found dead, having been shot by the Kid. Billy became a fugitive.
At some point after these murders, Lew Wallace became governor of New Mexico. Now, the stories of what actually happened next seem to clash, so suffice it to say that the Kid ended up in custody. He made a deal with the governor that should he testify against persons involved in the Lincoln County War, he would receive a full pardon for involvement in Sheriff Brady’s death and other misdeeds. The Kid testified as promised, but the pardon was never granted. So, the Kid escaped custody and eluded the law for the next two years.
During the Kid’s time as an outlaw, Pat Garrett was elected Sheriff and sent after him. Once again, Billy the Kid ended up in custody. This time however, he was sentenced to hang for the death of Sheriff Brady. While in prison, the Kid escaped again—this time killing two guards in the process. Once more, Sheriff Garrett was sent after the Kid. The next time the Kid encountered the sheriff however, it would be his last.
On July 14, 1881, Sheriff Garrett, under the cover of shadows, shot Billy the Kid dead in a residence in Fort Sumner. Some believe that the Kid lived on as “Brushy Bill” Roberts, but others believe that the Kid was in fact buried the next day in the Fort Sumner cemetery. At some point, due to the debate, there had been a movement to have the supposed bodies of the Kid and his mother exhumed for DNA testing. A judge apparently ruled against the efforts, but that hasn’t stopped present Governor Richardson’s interest in the case. He continues to look into whether the Kid rightfully deserves a posthumous pardon as promised by Governor Wallace. As you can imagine, there is much controversy arising from this investigation—which side will you join? Click here to sign a petition for the pardon of Billy the Kid, or click here to sign a petition opposed to that pardon.
For a look at Sheriff Garrett’s account of Billy the Kid’s death, see here. For additional information about the Kid and/or his potential pardon, please click here, here, here or here. Or, if you’re looking for a bit more adventure, you should come to the museum and check out our Wild West exhibits—including a look at the infamous Billy the Kid!
Read all our entries about Billy the Kid
Saturday, July 24th, 2010
Hello everyone! We had a question come in from one of the workshops taught at the museum regarding the composition of regular black fingerprint powder. Now, you should know that this powder is different from black magnetic fingerprint powder—they are not the same thing. The formula for regular black powder can change based on the manufacturer, but generally contains rosin, black ferric oxide, and lampblack. Other components may include lead mercury, cadmium, copper, silicon, titanium, or bismuth.
Read all our entries about fingerprints
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.” Regardless of whether you’ve heard them on TV or have been read them directly, most everyone knows what the Miranda warnings are. These warnings are designed to protect a person’s right against self-incrimination and their right to have a lawyer. On June 1, 2010, in a 5-4 decision during the Berghuis v. Thompkins case, the Supreme Court ruled that in order to invoke one’s right to silence, one must first explicitly say that they want to invoke that right. For instance, Thompkins, the accused in this case, decided to remain silent during his interrogation. At some point, one of the investigators asked a question to which Thompkins simply responded “yes,” thereby implicating himself in the crime. Because Thompkins did not tell the investigators that he was invoking his right to stay silent, his affirmative response to the questions could legally be used against him in court. The statement was used, and a jury came back with a guilty verdict for Thompkins. So, the lesson to be learned here is that if or when you are ever interrogated by the police, it is now legally assumed that you have waived your Miranda rights unless you speak up and say otherwise.
To read more about the Berghuis v. Thompkins case, click here or here.
Read our coverage of other Supreme Court cases
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Well folks, it’s that time of year again. Baseball season is back, and as always, so are the dumb criminals. While the Phillies were playing the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park, Matthew Clemmens and a friend decided to take advantage of the fact that Clemmens had turned 21 in March. Instead of opting for the more traditional peanuts and cracker jacks, the duo decided to heckle the game-goers sitting in front of them. Unfortunately for Clemmens and his comrade, the father of the family being harassed was an off-duty police captain. After one of his daughters was spit on, the captain had Clemmens’ friend removed from the park. Apparently this action displeased Clemmens, so much so that he stuck his fingers down his throat and began vomiting on the captain. This attack was then followed by a series of punches to the head until Clemmens was finally subdued by the crowd. Clemmens was charged with 1) simple assault, 2) disorderly conduct, and 3) harassment. Just like the song says, “For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out at the old ball game.”
Read about another senseless crime here
Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
Prior to the implementation of fingerprints as the primary means by which to identify people, many penitentiaries had adopted what was known as the Bertillon system of measurements. These measurements established a record for every prisoner, much like 10-print (fingerprint) cards do today. The basis for this system was anthropometry, which is the measurement of the human body for the purposes of understanding physical variation. Anthropometric measurements were made of each prisoner and included such things as height, stretch, bust, length and width of head, and length of right ear, left foot, left middle finger, and left cubit (see picture). The system worked quite well, until 1903 when Will West was received at Leavenworth Penitentiary. Upon running Will West’s measurements, it was discovered that a William West was already imprisoned at Leavenworth. He had the same anthropometric measurements as Will West. A photographic comparison of the two men did little to distinguish them. Finally, two years after Will West was brought to Leavenworth, fingerprints of each man were taken, compared, and found to bear no resemblance. Thus each man was distinguished by his fingerprints. Needless to say, Leavenworth converted from the Bertillon system to the more reliable fingerprint system, which is still in use today.
Read all of our entries about fingerprints here