Billy the Kid Deserves a Pardon

New Mexico reneged on a deal and should make things right
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 14, 2010 1:56 PM CDT
Billy the Kid Deserves a Pardon
An undated image of William Bonney, also known as Billy the Kid, circa 1880.   (AP Photo/Lincoln County Heritage Trust Archive)

Make no mistake: Billy the Kid was a "cattle rustler and a stone-cold killer" who single-handedly murdered four men and played a role in the deaths of scores of others, writes Mark Lee Gardner in the Los Angeles Times. But New Mexico owes him a pardon over a long-ago deal that it reneged on, and Gov. Bill Richardson—who's said to be seriously considering it—should see to it that he gets one.

Billy agreed to testify about one murder in exchange for amnesty about another in which he had been convicted. He testified, but Gov. Lew Wallace didn't give him the pardon. Billy then escaped just before his hanging by killing two guards, only to be tracked down and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett. "Regardless of Billy's crimes, the motives of Richardson or the hollowness of posthumous justice, it all comes back to Wallace's promise," writes Gardner. "A deal is a deal, and 129 years doesn't change that. Billy is owed a pardon." (Read more Billy the Kid stories.)

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