The Las Cruces Sun-News reported July 29, Gov. Bill Richardson is initiating an inquiry into the alleged pardon of Billy the Kid by then Gov. Lew Wallace. If the facts merit it, the Governor is said to have decided, he would pardon the legendary outlaw.
The life of Billy the Kid is wrought with legends and myths, making it difficult now ... after more than 125 years ... to sift fact from fiction. The facts are these: Billy was tried in Mesilla, convicted and sentenced to hang for the murder of Sheriff William Brady in Lincoln. He escaped and was a fugitive for some months. He was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett, who had been tracking him all those months. Billy did indeed write Gov. Wallace asking for his intervention. The letters are on display at the New Mexico Museum of History in Santa Fe and the museum in the L.G. Murphy store in Lincoln.
The questions are these: Was Billy the lone shooter of Brady or, as some historians believe, was he only one of several of Alexander McSween’s Regulators to have shot the sheriff? Were the Regulators a vigilante committee bent on revenge over the murder of John Tunstall, Murphy’s rival, or duly sworn deputies of the law? Some believe Brady has at least nine bullet holes in him delivered by at least six guns. So, was Billy the killer or just the scapegoat? Was Billy looking for his girlfriend in Fort Sumner and was he armed with a six-gun and not a turkey leg the night Pat Garrett shot the fugitive? Did Garrett fire in self-defense or did he simply execute Billy? Convicted murderers at the time could be captured dead or alive and returned for execution of sentence.
The ultimate question, of course, is what purpose does it serve to pardon a man who’s been dead 129 years? Will it separate legend from fact? Will it benefit descendants of Billy the Kid ... assuming he sired any? Will it “settle the score”once for all?
Register your vote: Should the governor pardon Billy the Kid? Yes? Or No?
Oh, by the way, Pat Garrett’s death on February 29, 1908 ... a Leap Year ... is cloaked in as much mystery as his shooting of Billy. But that’s another story!
Posted by Bud Russo