The legend of Billy the Kid just keeps growing after 130 years after his death. New Mexico governor Bill Richardson plans to pardon the outlaw who time has created a legend of falsehoods. In today’s standards he would be considered a cop killer. The descendants of Pat Garrett are not too thrilled at the prospect of the famous lawman who gunned down Billy the Kid will get a pardon. The murky details of the apparent death Billy the Kid at the hands of Pat Garrett are still debated even today.
“The history of New Mexico has been permanently disfigured by the element of doubt alone,” the Garrett family said in a letter sent to the Governor. Among those who signed it was Susan Floyd Garrett, a granddaughter of the sheriff. A pardon for the Kid would represent a “defamation of character” for her grandfather, she told Associated Press. “Everybody wants to mythologize Billy the Kid,” she added. Of course, tourist dollars may be the main motivation to supporters of a pardon. However, there is some basis for it in history.
The then territorial governor, Lew Wallace, had seemingly promised a pardon to the outlaw for his part in the killing of Garrett’s predecessor as county sheriff, in return for his promise to give evidence in another murder case. But Wallace apparently reneged on the deal and left the Kid to fester in jail. Furthermore, while Billy was long said to have killed 21 men, the more reliable number is four.