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Americas

No pardon for Billy the Kid

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-03

Billy the Kid, the notorious Wild West outlaw who killed at least three lawmen and reportedly reached a pardon with then-governor Lew Wallace in exchange for his testimony, won't be pardoned, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has announced.

AFP - New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson Friday refused to pardon Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid, saying there was not enough proof to forgive the infamous gunslinger, killed in 1881.

Advocates for a pardon said the legendary gunman -- reputed to have shot dead 21 people, one for each year of his life -- had reached a pardon deal with then-governor Lew Wallace in exchange for testimony regarding another shooting.

But Wallace allegedly failed to pardon the outlaw, who was then shot down by Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881.

Richardson said he has been investigating Billy the Kid -- whose real name was William H. Bonney but was also known as Henry McCarty and Henry Antrim -- since he first took office.

But on his last day as governor, Richardson declined to pardon the gunslinger.

"I have 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," Richardson announced on ABC television.

The legend of Billy the Kid has inspired dozens of books and films, several impostors, and attempts to exhume his grave to test for DNA.

He likely killed at least four people, and possibly more, though the figure of 21 dead may just be part of the legend.

Richardson acknowledged talking about Billy the Kid was a likely plus for tourism in the US state.

"It's good for tourism. It's gotten great publicity for the state. I acknowledge that. And I support that," he explained.

Various fans of the Billy the Kid legend have pushed for the pardon for more than a decade, including Elbert Garcia of Santa Rosa, New Mexico, who claims to be the gunman's great-grandson.

Garcia, 71, got up early at his home in the town of Santa Rosa to watch Richardson on television, but said he was "disappointed" upon hearing the news.

Richardson "never called me from my end, even though I wrote him all kinds of statements... I'm going to get on Facebook now to tell all my friends," he said.

Sheriff Garrett's grandchildren opposed the pardon, saying it would amount to painting the sheriff as a cold-blooded killer, "accusing our grandfather, in national and international media, of hideous crimes."

Richardson "took an admirable way of saying no to the pardon which is great," said Jarvis Patrick "JP" Garrett, the sheriff's grandson.

Garrett said he believes Richardson did not issue a pardon because New Mexico was a federal territory at the time of the crimes -- it did not become a state until 1912 -- so any crimes Billy the Kid committed were federal crimes and cannot be pardoned by a governor.

Richardson, a former US energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations who traveled to North Korea this month on his latest diplomatic mission, is stepping down after two terms as governor of the southwestern US state.

Susana Martinez, who takes over as governor of New Mexico on Saturday, said she viewed the proposed pardon a waste of time.

Lew Wallace, a former Union general in the US civil war, was also the author of the novel "Ben-Hur." Wallace was governor of New Mexico Territory 1878-1881, and later served as US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

Date created : 2010-12-31

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