Inside the Capitol

Thursday, August 19, 2010

8-23 Will Vegas Bet on Billy the Kid's Pardon?

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Did former New Mexico Territorial Gov. Lew Wallace offer Billy the Kid a pardon? And if he did, why didn't he follow through? Inquiring minds want to know. And that includes current Gov. Bill Richardson.
The most recent installment in The Kid's saga saw five descendants of Sheriff Pat Garrett visit Gov. Richardson to express concern that their grandfather is being maligned by unfounded conjecture that he really didn't shoot Billy.
As a result of the meeting, Gov. Richardson sent a letter to the Garrett family stating that he has no doubt that Sheriff Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid.
That assurance meant the world to the Garretts because every newspaper story about the current controversies includes a section about the rumors that Garrett shot someone else and the Kid lived a long life elsewhere.
Seven years ago, Gov. Richardson supported an investigation by three lawmen down south into whether Garrett killed the right man. Although that investigation hasn't reached a conclusion, Richardson says he has.
That gubernatorial assurance was greeted with cheers from the many Billy the Kid buffs who were appalled at the gullibility of people prone to believe made-up history.
Gov. Richardson also made it clear that he may still consider a pardon but that if he does, it will focus on the alleged promise that Territorial Gov. Lew Wallace made to the Kid and that he will be fair in his review of the historical record.
That should strip away the fears that Gov. Richardson has something else up his sleeve. It now comes back to the request Gov. Richardson made to me last April to sample Billy the Kid historians to determine their thoughts about granting a pardon.
The response I received from most historians was support for the pardon consideration if it could conducted in a scholarly and dignified manner. It was when the word got around to others that most of the controversy started.
There will still be controversy. Gov. Wallace didn't say much about his deal with the Kid. And some of that was two decades later when he was in a very romanticized frame of mind.
Also at issue is the propriety of second guessing a governor's actions of 130 years ago. What Richardson proposes is legal. The question now is propriety and the historians can discuss it from an historical basis.
Here's what we know about Gov. Wallace and the pardon promise. The only meeting between Wallace and the Kid was in Lincoln in a house owned by Squire Wilson.
We know Wilson was present at the beginning of the meeting. We don't know if he stayed or participated in any discussion. Wallace never said anything about the meeting. Neither did Wilson.
After the meeting, neither Wallace or Billy ever turned to Wilson for verification of anything said during the meeting.
Billy spoke and wrote often about the deal but he never called it a pardon. Billy said he upheld his end of the deal by testifying against the murderers of attorney Houston Chapman.
It was during the period following Billy's testimony and his conviction for killing Sheriff Brady that a pardon would have been expected. But none ever came.
Following the Kid's conviction, Wallace was asked by a reporter for the Las Vegas Gazette whether he would pardon Billy. Wallace answered that Billy should expect no clemency. That evening, the Kid escaped from the Lincoln County jail, killing two deputies and all bets were off.
Speaking of bets, Hollywood film maker Joe Micalizzi, creator of "Billy the Kid's New Mexico," suggests that with stories about a pardon for Billy spread across newspapers throughout the country and world, how long is it going to be before Las Vegas gets involved and starts making book on when and whether Gov. Richardson will issue a pardon for the Kid?
MON, 8-23-10

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



Post a Comment

<< Home