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Billy the Kid’s Pardon

New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, has mere hours left to decide whether or not to pardon “Billy the Kid” in the killing of a sheriff.  The case dates back to 1881…so why the New Year’s Eve deadline you may ask?  December 31, 2010 is the last day of Richardson’s term, so time for Billy the Kid’s pardon is running out.

For those of you scratching your heads wondering who Billy the Kid is; he is the western outlaw also known as William Bonney.  He died by the gun of Sheriff Pat Garrett at age 21. Despite his young age, Kid was said to have killed anywhere between 9 and 21 men. Richardson’s deputy chief of staff Eric Witt wants to clarify that they are not offering a general pardon for all of Kid’s crimes, but rather a pardon for the individual case of killing a sheriff.

Richardson is a known Billy the Kid aficionado, and is considering the pardon because of an alleged promise by Governor Lew Wallace.  He states, “Just think of all the good publicity New Mexico is receiving around the world on this…It’s fun”.  The defining issue revolves around the belief that Wallace promised this pardon in exchange for Kid’s knowledge in a murder case involving three men.  Those who oppose the pardon argue that there is no proof that Governor Wallace ever offered one; he may have simply tricked Kid in to offering up information.  Ancestor William Wallace argues that pardoning Billy the Kid would, “declare Lew Wallace to have been a dishonorable liar”.

Some of those in favor of Kid’s pardon have filed a petition, including defense attorney Randi McGinn who has offered to handle the case for free.  She writes, “A promise is a promise and should be enforced”.  McGinn also says that Wallace assured Kid that he had the authority to exempt him from prosecution should he cooperate and share his knowledge, but that Wallace never held up his end of the deal.

Sheriff Pat Garrett’s grandson, J.P. Garrett, argues that Richardson should have assigned an impartial historian to aid in the case, and believes that McGinn’s involvement may be a conflict of interest.  Richardson appointed Charles Daniels to the state Supreme Court, whom McGinn is married to. William Wallace agrees, also citing that McGinn has, “meager qualifications”.  Despite these accusations, McGinn claims that her only link to the administration is that she offered to handle the case for free because of Richardson’s lifelong interest in Billy the Kid.

Richardson told the Associated Press on Wednesday, “I don’t know where I’ll end up. I might not pardon him. But then I might”.  I guess we’ll just all have to anxiously await the outcome of this deceased outlaw’s judicial fate.

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