New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said today he is not pardoning Old West outlaw Billy the Kid, who was shot to death in 1881 after escaping jail where he awaited hanging for the killing of a sheriff, reports the Associated Press. The prospect of a pardon for the notorious frontier figure drew international attention to New Mexico. One issue was whether Billy the Kid had been promised a pardon from New Mexico’s territorial governor in return for testimony in killings he had witnessed.
The facts of the case didn’t support a pardon, Richardson said on ABC’s Good Morning America. The proposed pardon covered the 1878 killing of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady. According to legend, Billy the Kid killed 21 people, one for each year of his life. The New Mexico Tourism Department puts the total closer to nine. Richardson, the former U.N. ambassador and Democratic presidential candidate, waited until the last minute to announce his decision. His term ends at midnight. Richardson got 809 e-mails and letters in the survey that ended Sunday, with 430 favoring a pardon and 379 opposed. Comments came from all over the world. Richardson cited “good publicity” the state received over the case.