On his last day in office, outgoing New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has captured news headlines by deciding not to issue a pardon for Billy the Kid. Richardson made the news earlier by reporting that he was reviewing the matter and that he may indeed grant a posthumous pardon to the 21 year-old outlaw. Billy died 129 years ago, shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
There is some question about how culpable Henry McCarty was. (Billy went by a number of names, starting with Henry McCarty at birth but also using the aliases William H. Bonney and Henry Antrim.) Did he really kill the 21 people legend says he did? Was he really promised a pardon in exchange for testimony by then territorial Governor Lew Wallace? Did he live up to his end of that bargain?
Whatever the answers are, the truly sad part of this is that there are men still alive and still incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit. The Innocence Network reports that 29 such men were exonerated this year alone. But there are many more, and each deserves as much attention as The Kid.