SANTA FE, New Mexico (Reuters) - Iconic Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid, reputed to have killed 21 men during the 19th century, could receive a pardon from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson by the end of the year.
Richardson said on Thursday he is reviewing a pardon petition based on the widespread belief that New Mexico Territorial Governor Lew Wallace had promised the famous gunman, whose real name was Henry McCarty, a pardon in exchange for his testimony in a murder trial.
“As someone who is fascinated with New Mexico’s rich history, I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Billy the Kid and, in particular, the alleged promise of a pardon he was given,” Richardson said in a statement.
“I will diligently review this new petition and all the facts available regarding an agreement between Billy the Kid and Governor Wallace before rendering any decision,” Richardson said.
The two-term Democratic governor -- a former congressman, diplomat and U.S. Energy Secretary who leaves office at the end of the year -- asked historians and others to weigh in with their opinions on a website dedicated to the issue, here
Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett shot McCarty dead at point-blank range in 1881. Newspapers had already turned the young outlaw into a larger-than-life figure by the time of his death in his early 20s. And a book by Garrett transformed McCarty into a legendary figure of America’s western frontier.
Richardson received various pardon requests over the years from McCarty’s descendants, but this was the first formal petition he has received on the subject.
It was presented by a prominent trial attorney and western history buff, Randi McGinn, who was designated to study the facts and documents of that era to determine whether there was sufficient basis for a pardon to be seriously considered.
The petition she submitted on Tuesday “is narrow in scope and does not argue for a blanket pardon of all of Billy the Kid’s activities,” a statement from Richard’s office said.
Writing by Jim Christie in San Francisco; Editing by Steve Gorman and Greg McCune