Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No mercy for Billy the Kid

In 2010, governor of New Mexico refused to give a posthumous pardon for Billy the Kid, the famous Old West outlaw. That decision heated up once again the legends of notorious robber.

The request for posthumous pardon of Old West legend, Billy the Kid, remained lying in the dust of New Mexico  administration, just like his body, in 1881, when  Sheriff Pat Garrett shot him. Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, decided not to pardon Billy the Kid for the murder of Sheriff William Brady, in 1878. 

Billy the Kid (born in New York as William Henry McCarty) gained a reputation as the most famous American robber, during his brief but turbulent life. Legends say that he killed 21 people – one victim for each year of his life. However, other sources say that he killed 27 people. Yet, historical facts are telling us a different story. According to them, Billy the Kid killed "only" nine people.

He was short, lithe, with blue eyes, a smooth complexion, and prominent front teeth. Behind his smile a fierce, wild and cunning nature was hidden, which, in combination with his excellent shooting abilities, made him the most dangerous outlaw. He wore a sombrero decorated with a green band.

The request for pardon was initiated by an attorney from Albuquerque, Randi McGinn, who argued that the former governor of New Mexico, Lew Wallace, promised to pardon the Kid in exchange for his testimony in a murder case. Richardson was asked to pardon this outlaw from 19th century, in order to fulfill that promise.

This request caused a sort of a “silent war” between Billy’s supporters and descendants of Sheriff Pat Garrett. Garrett’s three grandchildren sent a letter to Governor Richardson in which they asked of him not to pardon Billy the Kid because such act would place an unforgivable shame on Garrett.

"I don't believe a thief, a liar, a terroriser of the ordinary people and a multiple cop killer should ever be granted a pardon, period. The Kid was a notorious outlaw and murderer. He was on a rampage for a while. I believe Lew Wallace did what he planned all long, get Billy to testify and then hang him. By granting the Kid a pardon are you excusing the murders he committed?" – said Garrett's grandson J.P. Garrett.

It is interesting that Governor Richardson's mandate expired on 31 December 2010, and he made his decision not to pardon Billy one day before that. Richardson said that he decided against a pardon "because of a lack of conclusiveness and the historical ambiguity as to why Governor Wallace reneged on his promise."

Randi McGinn said that she was disappointed with that decision, but she also expressed her satisfaction to the fact that Billy the Kid still causes great interest. She invited people to come to New Mexico, take a look at the letter that Billy wrote to Governor Wallace and conclude on their own whether he was "Robin Hood of the Wild West or cold-blooded killer".

Sheriff Pat Garrett killed Billy after the famous shootout in which two sheriff deputies were killed during Billy’s escape from Lincoln County jail. A year after he killed Billy, Garrett published a sensational biography called “The Authentic Life of BILLY THE KID. Although Garrett’s intention with this book was only to justify himself to the public for killing Billy, this book became very popular and made Billy the most famous figure of the Wild West. The mentioned biography became a source of many legends and doubt, which, even after 130 years since Billy died, continued to exist.

Billy the Kid lived long and happily in Texas

Billy the Kid found his place in many songs and films. That only contributed to creation of an image of him as Wild West hero. One of the most famous films about Garrett and the Kid is the one from 1973 (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid), directed by Sam Peckinpah. Bob Dylan composed music for that particular film.

Anyway, some historians claim that Billy the Kid wasn’t killed in the shootout with Garrett. They say that he settled in Texas. He allegedly lived there under the name Brushy Bill Roberts, and he died in 1950 from a heart attack.

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