Billy the Kid, who also went by the name William H. Bonney, was convicted of murdering Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady in 1878. Lew Wallace, the governor of territorial New Mexico in the late 1870s, purportedly offered the Kid a pardon if he testified against other members of Billy Campbell's posse in a separate murder case. The Kid testified, but no pardon was granted.
In April 1881, shortly before the Kid was to be hanged, he escaped from jail and killed two deputies. Sheriff Pat Garrett tracked him down and killed him on July 14, 1881.
Richardson set up a website this month and asked New Mexicans if they believed the Kid should be pardoned for the Brady murder. In the process, he incited a debate in a place where frontier history still resonates with many.
Slightly more than half of the roughly 800 respondents said the pact should be honored and the pardon granted, said Eric Witt, deputy chief of staff for Richardson. Others, including descendants of Wallace and Garrett, argued that pardoning a criminal like the Kid would sully the reputations of the territorial governor and the lawmen who chased the Kid down.
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