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No Pardon for Billy the Kid
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Bill Richardson, the outgoing Governor of New Mexico, has decided not to grant a pardon to Henry McCarty, AKA William Bonney, better known as “Billy the Kid”. 

Billy the Kid came to fame in what has been called the Lincoln County War.  The Lincoln County War was fought over the control of dry goods sales in Lincoln County in the 1870’s between the owners of two rival general stores and their allies.  Billy the Kid was part of a group called the Lincoln County Regulators who supported the losing faction in the battle.  The rival faction was supported by the Jessie Evans Gang, and both sides had lawmen fighting with them as well.  Billy’s reputation as an outlaw instead of as a hero has more to do with his being on the losing side, although he was responsible for the deaths of anywhere between 9 and 21 people.  The “war” began with a series of escalating revenge killings and culminated in a four day gun battle.  It was finally resolved after Pat Garrett was hired as Sheriff in 1880, and Garret hunted down the remaining Regulators including Billy the Kid.  Garrett shot and killed Billy in July of 1881.

The issue of a pardon for Billy comes from a deal purportedly struck with territorial Governor Lew Wallace, who granted amnesty to everyone involved in the Lincoln War not already under indictment.  Billy had fled to Texas and was under indictment, but contacted Wallace and offered his testimony before the grand jury in the indictment of John Dolan.  It is believed that the two men reached a deal but that after his testimony the DA refused to release him as agreed.  Billy the Kid escaped but was tracked down by Pat Garrett and arrested.  In a short trial, he was found guilty of the murder of Sheriff Brady, the only conviction obtained in the Lincoln County War, and was sentenced to hang.  While in jail, he wrote several letters to Governor Wallace asking for his promised amnesty, but Wallace did not intervene.  Before the sentence could be carried out, Billy escaped again, killing two guards in the process.  He was again tracked down by Garrett who this time shot and killed the Kid.


The proposed pardon was for the conviction in the killing of Sheriff Brady, on the grounds that Billy had been offered amnesty and then convicted contrary to the agreement.  The debate over the pardon was fierce with surviving descendants of Garrett weighing in strongly opposed and took a political bent on Internet message boards and chatrooms with predictable right wing charges that Democrats were soft on crime.  After much debate, Governor Richardson this week announced that he would not sign a pardon document.



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