Legal History

NM Governor Considers Pardoning Billy the Kid, Angering Sheriff’s Descendants

A possible pardon for Billy the Kid has brought protests from descendants of the sheriff who may have killed the outlaw.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has said he would consider a pardon, prompting a letter from three grandchildren of lawman Pat Garrett, according to the Associated Press, the El Paso Times and ABC News.

“If Billy the Kid was living amongst us now, would you issue a pardon for someone who made his living as a thief and, more egregiously, who killed four law enforcement officers and numerous others?” the letter says.

Richardson was reportedly weighing a pardon because New Mexico’s governor had agreed to grant him amnesty in 1879 for testimony in a murder case. But after waiting 27 days for amnesty, Billy escaped from jail, killing two deputies during his getaway, according to the ABC and El Paso Times stories.

Some skeptics claim Billy the Kid didn’t die in a shootout with Garrett, and instead moved to Texas where he lived under an alias until his death in 1950 at the age of 90.

Historian Drew Gomber told the El Paso Times that the pardon news is nothing more than a publicity stunt by the governor. “There is no point in restoring the civil rights of a dead man,” he said.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.