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Governor mulls pardon for Billy the Kid

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The feud between Pat Garrett and the Kid isn’t over yet

By Barry Massey

SANTA FE — The showdown between Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid has fascinated the American public for nearly 130 years with its classic, Old West storyline of the frontier lawman hunting down the notorious gunslinger.

As it turns out, the feud isn’t completely over.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is considering granting a posthumous pardon to Billy the Kid, angering descendants of Garrett who call it an insult to recognize such a violent outlaw.

Three of the late lawman’s grandchildren sent a letter to Richardson this week that asked him not to pardon the outlaw, saying such an act would represent an “inexcusable defamation” of Garrett.

“If Billy the Kid was living amongst us now, would you issue a pardon for someone who made his living as a thief and, more egregiously, who killed four law enforcement officers and numerous others?” the Garrett family wrote.

The issue has resurfaced because Richardson asked a New Mexico columnist earlier this year to check with historians to measure their support for issuing a pardon. The governor plans to meet with Garrett family members next week to discuss the issue.

Garrett shot Billy the Kid down on July 14, 1881. Garrett tracked him after the outlaw escaped from the Lincoln County jail in a famous gunbattle that left two deputies dead.


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