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Lawmakers weigh possible pardon of Billy the Kid

by Jorge Hernandez on December 29, 2010

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson's office is currently accepting guidance from the public on whether or not to pardon one of the Old West's most notorious outlaws, Billy the Kid, some 130 years after his death.

"I don't know where I'll end up. I might not pardon him. But then I might," Richardson told the Associated Press.

Richardson received a formal petition last week to pardon Billy, whose real name was William Bonney, based on the charge that then-governor Lew Wallace had promised to pardon Billy on pending charges in exchange for his testimony in a murder trial involving three men. Wallace never held up his end of the deal, though his outraged descendants are adamant that he never made such a promise.

"The big picture is that Wallace obviously had no intent to pardon Billy – even telling a reporter that fact in an interview on April 28, 1881. So there was no 'pardon promise' that Wallace broke. But I do think there was a pardon 'trick,' in that Wallace led Billy on to get his testimony," wrote J.P. Garrett, a descendant of Sheriff Pat Garrett, who shot Billy the Kid to death months after the alleged pardon was promised, CBS News reports.

The charges against Billy included those brought against him for the 1878 shooting of Sheriff William Brady.

According to the AP, Richardson has received 809 emails and letters as of Sunday, with more respondents in favor of the pardon than against it. Those opposing it don't believe a criminal with an extensive track record such as Billy's should ever be pardoned, but those arguing for it say that the issue has more to do with upholding the governor's promise than anything else.

Richardson is looking to make a decision before the end of his term on December 31.

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