Saturday, 1 January 2011
THE DREAMSCAPE DESPARADO - BILLY THE KID STILL ON THE LAM
In his final weeks in office, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson has refused to posthumously pardon the iconic Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid - prompting sighs of relief from the descendants of those who hunted him down.
Sheriff Pat Garett shot dead the 21-year-old Kid (although there is some controversy as to the kid's actual age at the time of his death) in 1881, after he had escaped from prison, killing two lawmen in the process. He had been convicted of killing a sheriff in 1879.
Richardson had been asked to pardon the famous bandit in order to fulfill a promise supposedly made in exchange for court testimony. But he told US TV that Billy the Kid's name - linked to as many as 27 murders - would not be cleared.
"If one is to rewrite a chapter as prominent as this, there had better be certainty as to the facts, the circumstances and the motivations of those involved," Richardson said, adding that he would not tamper with the history of a man whose life was spent "pillaging, ravaging and killing the deserving and the innocent alike".
At issue was a pardon that Lew Wallace, the then governor of New Mexico, apparently offered Billy in 1879 if the outlaw would testify before a grand jury about a killing he had witnessed. The Kid testified, but Wallace (author of Ben-Hur, the book which was made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie) reputedly went back on his promise.
Richardson, a history buff who has a replica of Wallace's office chair in his desk, said his reading of the historical record convinced him that a pardon was offered, but he said he lacked enough evidence to know why Wallace had decided against the deal.
Richardson said he also factored into his decision that Billy the Kid, who also went by the names Henry McCarty and William H Bonney, killed two lawmen after the deal fell through and he had escaped from jail.