Inside the Capitol

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fw: 12-27 Billy the Kid May Still Get His Pardon

MON, 12-27-10

SANTA FE - So now it's a petition that has Gov. Bill Richardson considering a pardon for Billy the Kid. Originally, last March, Richardson wanted to stage a trial, using Billy the Kid historians and a professional film crew.
Responses from those familiar with the Kid's story were positive for the first month or so, as long as the trial was conducted in a scholarly and dignified manner. But the tide soon turned against a pardon as others heard of the plan.
Some felt a pardon would be a bad message to the young. Others called it a publicity stunt. And some alleged it was a payoff to a big political contributor. Then descendants of Gov. Lew Wallace and Sheriff Pat Garrett weighed in against a pardon.
That evidently slowed down preparations for a pardon hearing. The loss of gubernatorial staff may also have been a factor as employees scrambled to find other jobs. But it didn't lessen the governor's enthusiasm for a pardon. Most governor watchers figured he'd find a way even if it were a last-day announcement.
And a pardon petition by a prominent attorney was evidently the plan. Randi McGinn, an Albuquerque plaintiffs attorney and wife of Supreme Court Chief Justice Charlie Daniels, volunteered to review the situation and petition for a pardon.
This occurred six month ago. That's about a month after public opinion began turning south for the governor's trial. McGinn is from Alamogordo so she knows descendants from both sides of the Lincoln County War and has talked to them. McGinn says she also read every book she could find on Billy the Kid. That's quite a few. lists 1,326 books. The closest she could get to Gov. Wallace promising a pardon to the Kid was a statement that he had the authority to exempt him from prosecution.
To anyone but a plaintiffs attorney, Wallace's statement is a long way from saying, "I will pardon you." Sure, Wallace led Billy to believe they had a deal if Billy testified in a murder trial in which Wallace was interested.
And Billy did get a raw deal from New Mexico's justice system, which was controlled by the corrupt Santa Fe Ring. But granting a pardon based on Wallace's statement that he had the power to grant one is a stretch. Wallace decided not to exercise that authority.
McGinn's pardon petition focuses on the Kid's indictment for the killing of Sheriff William Brady since that was the context in which the pardon question was considered. It does not consider the Kid's killing of the two deputies after he had been convicted and sentenced to hang.
Gov. Richardson and McGinn say they are interested in hearing what New Mexicans feel about McGinn's pardon petition. Richardson wants all replies to be in writing and confined to the content of McGinn's petition. So replies will not be considered if they address Gov. Richardson's motives or the effect of the pardon on the younger generation.
The deadline for replies was yesterday, December 26. That gives the governor and McGinn a week to read the replies and make a decision before Richardson's term ends December 31.
The possibility seems small that Gov. Richardson won't grant the pardon requested by McGinn's petition. By the time you read this, descendants of Garrett and Wallace may have issued public statements about the pardon, which they oppose.
And there is always the possibility that descendants of Sheriff Brady may weigh in. That is a big family, many of whom are still in New Mexico and wouldn't be expected to support a pardon.
Regardless of Richardson's interest in Billy the Kid, McGinn insists a pardon isn't a foregone conclusion. "There is no deal or any fix in," she told Dan Boyd of the Albuquerque Journal.
If you are interested in reading McGinn's pardon petition, go to




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