Pardon hope for outlaw Billy the Kid a century on
Published 26/07/2010 | 05:00
BILLY the Kid, one of the Wild West's most infamous outlaws, looks set to be given a posthumous pardon more than a century after his death.
Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, is considering the gesture to deliver on an unfulfilled pledge by a distant predecessor before he leaves office at the end of the year.
Mr Richardson feels it is possible the gunslinger was not given an amnesty to which he was entitled.
A proposed series of public "cowboy courts" could be set up in places where the Kid is said to have committed his crimes.
Evidence for alleged wrongful treatment of the outlaw is contained in two letters written to Lew Wallace, the then-governor of New Mexico, in the aftermath of the so-called Lincoln County War in 1878.
The bloody, five-month feud, which has been the subject of numerous Hollywood films, took place in the southern New Mexico village of Lincoln. The Kid, a ranch hand, was aligned with one of the factions.
In his first letter, believed to have been written in March 1879, he informs Wallace that he was a witness to a high-profile murder the previous month.
He said he would testify in court if indictments against him stemming from the Lincoln County War were dropped. The letter was signed 'William H Bonney' in black ink.
A few days later, the Kid met the governor and agreed to a staged arrest. He went on to testify and complete his side of the bargain.
He was later arrested by Pat Garrett, Sheriff of Lincoln County, and charged with murdering Sheriff William Brady during the Lincoln fighting.
In a letter to Wallace, the Kid wrote: "Dear Sir. I wish you would come down to the jail and see me. I expect you have forgotten what you promised me."
But there was no reply.
The Kid was convicted and sentenced to hang. On April 28, 1881, he broke out of jail in Lincoln, killing two guards before being hunted down and shot dead months later by Garrett.
The Kid, who was born Henry McCarty but was better known as William H Bonney, was about 22 when he died, having reputedly killed 21 men. (© Daily Telegraph, London)