Billy The Kid Pardon Showdown


 The descendants of Wild West Sheriff Pat Garrett, the lawman who shot the Kid, have launched a protest over the move calling the outlaw a "thief, terroriser and cop killer."
Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico, has said he will decide before leaving office on Dec 31 whether to give the controversial pardon to one of America's most infamous outlaws.
The Kid was shot dead by Garrett on July 14, 1881 and the story of the two men's lives has provided the plot for numerous Hollywood films.
Mr Richardson is considering whether Lew Wallace, the state's governor at the time, reneged on a promise of an amnesty for the Kid's crimes in return for him testifying as a witness in a murder case.
  The current governor has set up a website asking for the public's view and it has been inundated, with sentiment running slightly in the Kid's favour.
A New Mexico lawyer, Randi McGinn, has submitted an official petition seeking the pardon after reviewing historical documents.
She told The Daily Telegraph: "What I found is that, as ever, history is written by the victors. The other side has had 130 years to make Billy the Kid out as the bad guy. A promise is a promise and should be enforced."
But Garrett's grandson JP Garrett, who still lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said: "I don't believe a thief, a liar, a terroriser of the ordinary people and a multiple cop killer should ever be granted a pardon, period.
"The Kid was a notorious outlaw and murderer. He was on a rampage for a while. I believe Lew Wallace did what he planned all long, get Billy to testify and then hang him. By granting the Kid a pardon are you excusing the murders he committed?"
Wallace's great-grandson, William Wallace of Westport, Connecticut, said pardoning the Kid now "would declare Lew Wallace to have been a dishonourable liar."
Wallace was an important historical and literary figure. He was a Union general in the Civil War. Then, while serving as governor in 1880, he published the bestselling novel "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" which was later made into the Hollywood film starring Charlton Heston.
The case for pardoning the Kid centres on letters the outlaw wrote to Wallace in the aftermath of the so-called Lincoln County War, a deadly five-month feud in 1878.
The Kid was a ranch hand involved with one of the factions and wrote to the governor saying he had witnessed a high profile murder.
Signing his letter "William H Bonney" he offered to become an informant and testify in court if charges stemming from his own involvement in the Lincoln County War were dropped.
A fake arrest of the Kid was then staged and he went on to give evidence, upholding his side of the bargain.
Two years later he found himself in jail in Santa Fe having been arrested by Garrett, the Sheriff of Lincoln County. He was due to stand trial for the murder of another Sheriff, William Brady, in the Lincoln County War.
The Kid wrote to Wallace to remind him of their deal but no reply came and he was sentenced to hang.
On April 28, 1881 he killed two guards and broke out of jail, reputedly singing as he escaped on a horse, before Garrett found him and killed him.
The Kid, who was born Henry McCarty but better known as William H Bonney, was aged about 22 when he died and had reputedly killed 21 men, although some scholars believe it was as few as four.
Mr Richardson is keeping everyone guessing right to the end. He said: "I don't know where I'll end up. I might not pardon him. But then I might.
That petition can be viewed here.