Billy the Kid fails to win pardon from governor

They still call him The Unforgiven, because in the Wild West of America, men are men and grudges tend to endure. Almost 130 years after his death, fans of the Billy the Kid have failed in their effort to secure a posthumous pardon for the famous outlaw.

In one of his last acts as Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson announced yesterday that he was not prepared to sign off on the rehabilitation of an unrepentant crook who had murdered anywhere from nine to 27 people by the time Sheriff Pat Garrett caught up with him in 1881.

Efforts to secure a pardon for Billy the Kid, who was born Henry McCarty, have been bubbling away since earlier this year, when his case was taken up by Randi McGinn, an attorney and amateur historian from the city of Albuquerque.

He claimed that the legendary gunslinger was illegally shot dead by Garrett after having surrendered on the condition that he would receive clemency. As part of the alleged deal, which had been offered by territorial governor Lew Wallace, McCarty is believed to have agreed to testify in a forthcoming murder case.

After Mr McGinn petitioned for the pardon, on grounds that an injustice had perpetrated against Billy the Kid, Governor Richardson set up a website where residents of New Mexico could argue for or against it. A total of 430 people argued for forgiveness, but 379 opposed it.

In the end, Mr Richardson decided that, regardless of public opinion, he was not prepared to sign off on the pardon until credible documentary evidence could be found to lend certainty to his decision. And no such evidence was volunteered.

Although some historical documents suggest that Wallace may have held out the prospect of a plea bargain to Billy the Kid, they are largely inconclusive, and do not detail the circumstances under which Wallace might have reneged on the conditions of surrender, he said.

Mr Richardson announced his decision on live television, saying he would not be issuing clemency "because of a lack of conclusiveness and the historical ambiguity as to why Governor Wallace reneged on his promise". He added: "We should not neglect the historical record and the history of the American West."

Billy the Kid, who was 21 when he died, made a living from stealing horses and cattle, and had become one of New Mexico's most wanted men when he escaped from prison two years before Garrett tracked him down.

Though relatively unknown outside the region during his lifetime, he was catapulted to fame as a symbol of the old West in 1881, when Garrett published a sensationalistic biography, The Authentic Life of Billy, the Kid. His story was subsequently turned into countless films, and was even hymned by Bob Dylan.

He is sometimes accused of 27 murders, but over the years has more commonly been said to have committed 21 (one for every year of his life). Both figures are, however, almost certainly inflated: the New Mexico tourism department puts his exact toll at somewhere around nine.

Either way, in 1878, Billy the Kid is said to have witnessed, but not taken part in, the killing of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady. That was the event that lay at the centre of his alleged plea bargain.

Efforts to secure a pardon have been widely discussed in recent months, and the historical controversy is thought to represent a PR coup for New Mexico's tourist industry.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor