The legendary Wild West figure, who allegedly killed 21 men before being gunned down himself at age 21, is being considered for a pardon by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. The petition Richardson is reviewing is based on a claim New Mexico territorial Governor Lew Wallace promised the Billy 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.
Billy the Kid, whose real name may have been Henry McCarty, Henry Antrim or William H. Bonney, escaped the gallows by allegedly gunning down two sheriffs as he was about to be hanged. He was killed in 1881 by Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett, whose subsequent book helped trannsformm a little-known outlaw into a legend.
Richardson, a two-term governor who leaves office this year, has received various pardon requests over the years from McCarty's descendants, according to Reuters. But this was the first formal petition. It was presented byan attorney and historian designated to determine whether there was sufficient basis for a pardon to be seriously considered.
"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, adding he would decide by the end of the year.
Earlier this month, outgoing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist pardoned Jim Morrison, the late Doors singer, for a 40-year-old indecent exposure charge.