Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Gov.'s Poll Says Pardon the Kid
By Sue Major Holmes
More people say they favor a pardon for Billy the Kid than oppose the idea after Gov. Bill Richardson's office set up a website and e-mail address to take comments on a possible posthumous pardon for New Mexico's most famous Old West outlaw.
Richardson's office received 809 e-mails and letters in the informal survey, which ended Sunday. Of the responses, 430 argued for a pardon and 379 opposed it.
The website was created in mid-December after Albuquerque attorney Randi McGinn petitioned for a pardon, contending New Mexico Territorial Gov. Lew Wallace promised one in return for the Kid's testimony in a murder case against three men.
Richardson's term ends Friday, leaving him little time to decide whether to pardon the Kid in the 1878 killing of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady.
"I might not pardon him. But then I might," Richardson told The Associated Press last week.
His successor, incoming Gov. Susana Martinez, has said she won't be wasting her time on a pardon. The Republican said Tuesday that state issues, such as a balanced budget and a controversial move of the state's DNA laboratory, were more pressing.
"There's an awful lot of work to be taken care of for us to be wasting so much time on such a consideration. It's just a waste," she said.
Billy the Kid, also known as William Bonney or Henry McCarty, was shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett in July 1881, a few months after escaping from the Lincoln County jail, where he was waiting to be hanged for Brady's death. He killed two deputies while escaping, but McGinn's pardon request does not cover those deaths.
McGinn, knowing Richardson's interest in the Kid, offered to look into the issue this summer. She petitioned for a pardon Dec. 14 after reviewing historical documents and other material.
E-mails debating the issue came from all over the United States and beyond, including England, Japan, France and New Zealand, said Richardson's deputy chief of staff, Eric Witt.
"This has clearly generated a lot of interest globally," Witt said.
He said responses, pro and con, came from people familiar with the legend of Billy the Kid as well as from people knowledgeable about the territorial era and the Lincoln County War, in which the Kid and Brady were on opposite sides.
Some argued that circumstantial evidence points toward Wallace offering a pardon and said it was not implausible because Wallace pardoned other people involved in the Lincoln County War. Others questioned why Richardson would consider pardoning "a cop killer," Witt said.
McGinn has said the point is not who was killed, but whether a government has to keep its promise.
Among those opposing a pardon are Garrett's grandson J.P. Garrett, of Albuquerque, and Wallace's great-grandson William Wallace, of Westport, Conn.
J.P. Garrett has said that there's no proof Gov. Wallace offered a pardon — and that he may have tricked the Kid into testifying.
"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," he wrote to Witt. "But I do think there was a pardon 'trick,' in that Wallace led Billy on to get his testimony."
William Wallace said his ancestor never promised a pardon, so pardoning the Kid "would declare Lew Wallace to have been a dishonorable liar."
The Kid wrote Wallace in 1879, volunteering to testify in the murder case if Wallace would annul pending charges against him, including the Brady indictment.
McGinn said Wallace responded he had the authority "to exempt you from prosecution if you will testify to what you say you know."
The Kid kept his end of the bargain, but Wallace did not, she argued.
J.P. Garrett said there's no written proof Wallace offered a pardon.
And, he noted, when the Kid was awaiting trial in Brady's killing, "he wrote four letters for aid but never used the word 'pardon.' "
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