- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2010

After a lengthy debate that aroused national and international attention, Bill Richardson announced on his last day as New Mexico’s governor that he would not grant a pardon to long-dead outlaw Billy the Kid.

Mr. Richardson, who aired his decision New Year’s Eve on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” explained that the facts of the case didn’t support a pardon.

Had the pardon request submitted by attorney and history buff Randi McGinn been granted, it would have covered an amnesty offer supposedly given to Billy the Kid by then-Territorial Governor Lew Wallace for the 1878 killing of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady.

Billy the Kid, also known as William H. Bonney and Henry McCarty, killed two more law enforcement officers after receiving the unfulfilled offer. Sheriff Pat Garrett fatally shot him in 1881.

“I’ve decided not to pardon Billy the Kid because [of] a lack of conclusiveness and also the historical ambiguity as to why Gov. Wallace reneged on his pardon,” Mr. Richardson said Friday morning on the show.

Bill Richardson, who considered pardoning long-dead Billy the Kid before leaving office as New Mexico governor, decided against it. The outlaw is believed to have killed between four and nine people. (Associated Press)
Bill Richardson, who considered pardoning long-dead Billy the Kid before leaving office ... more >

Mr. Richardson, a history buff himself who has alluded to the possibility of a pardon since 2003, said what “tipped the scales” for him was Billy the Kid’s decision to kill the two additional law enforcement officers. “It was a very close call,” Mr. Richardson said.

Although records are unclear, Billy the Kid is believed to be responsible for between four and nine killings. Descendents of those who opposed the outlaw were pleased with Mr. Richardson’s verdict.

In an e-mail to the Associated Press on Friday, Garrett’s grandson, Jarvis Patrick Garrett, wrote, “Yea!!! No pardon! Looks like it will be a great new year!!!!”

Many were certain Billy the Kid would join dead Doors singer Jim Morrison in receiving pardon. Charlie Crist of Florida granted Morrison clemency in early December. Gary Johnson, Mr. Richardson’s predecessor, refused to consider pardoning the Kid back in 2001.

According to the New Mexico Independent, Mr. Richardson granted 19 other clemency requests in has last days in office. The governor’s office had been reluctant to release information about clemency grants until last week. After Wednesday, however, Mr. Richardson said he would not consider the other 241 requests from convicted persons for before leaving office.

On Thursday, the request for the Kid was the only one pending. The governor’s office failed to return multiple voice and e-mail messages from The Washington Times.

Some other governors who left office Dec. 31 granted more pardons than Mr. Richardson. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin granted 111 pardons in his last 3½ months in office. On one day alone in November, Ted Strickland of Ohio approved clemency to 78 individuals.

The governor’s office received some 430 messages in favor of the Kid’s pardon and 379 against from all over the world. Mr. Richardson admitted that the case provided “great publicity” for New Mexico.

Many, including the newly inaugurated governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, have criticized Mr. Richardson’s focus on Billy the Kid. Ms. Martinez said the state had better things to do than waste time deliberating over the possible pardon of a notorious dead outlaw, and called the pardon issue a waste of time.

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