ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Descendants of Old West lawman Pat Garrett and New Mexico Territorial Gov. Lew Wallace are outraged that Gov. Bill Richardson is considering pardoning Billy the Kid.
Sheriff Pat Garrett's grandson, J.P. Garrett, and Wallace's great-grandson, William Wallace, submitted their objections after Richardson set up a website last week to take public comment on the possibility of a posthumous pardon for the Kid on a murder indictment. The governor said he would decide before his term ends Dec. 31.
As of Tuesday, the governor's office had received 370 e-mails and about 20 letters, with sentiment so far running slightly in favor of the pardon, said Eric Witt, Richardson's deputy chief of staff.
The issue centers on whether Lew Wallace, governor of the territory from 1878 to 1881, promised a pardon in return for the Kid's testimony in a murder case against three men.
J.P. Garrett, of Albuquerque, who with other Garrett descendants met with Richardson in August to oppose a pardon, said there was no proof Wallace offered one, and that he may only have tricked the Kid into testifying.
"The big picture is that Wallace obviously had no intent to pardon Billy - even telling a reporter that fact in an interview on April 28, 1881," he wrote Witt. "So there was no 'pardon promise' that Wallace broke. But I do think there was a pardon 'trick,' in that Wallace led Billy on to get his testimony."
William Wallace, of Westport, Conn., said his ancestor never promised a pardon and that pardoning the Kid "would declare Lew Wallace to have been a dishonorable liar."
Billy the Kid, also known as William Bonney, was shot to death by Sheriff Garrett in July 1881.
J.P. Garrett said he wants to see written evidence of the promise cited by Albuquerque lawyer Randi McGinn, who submitted a petition for a pardon last week after reviewing historical documents.
The Kid wrote Wallace in 1879, volunteering to testify in the murder case if Wallace would annul pending charges against him, including a murder indictment in the 1878 shooting death of Sheriff William Brady.
McGinn said Wallace told the Kid he had the authority "to exempt you from prosecution if you will testify to what you say you know." The Kid kept his end of the bargain, but Wallace did not, she said.
J.P. Garrett told Witt that when the Kid was awaiting trial in Brady's killing, "he wrote four letters for aid, but never used the word pardon."
Garrett also contends Richardson should have designated an independent historian. He noted that McGinn is married to Charles Daniels, whom Richardson appointed to the state Supreme Court.
Garrett said the action suggests it is a ruse to allow Richardson to grant an "illegal pardon."
McGinn said her only tie to the administration is that she volunteered to look into the issue for free, knowing Richardson's interest. She said he told her "he wasn't promising anything."
Garrett wrote: "I don't believe a thief, a liar, a terrorizer of the ordinary people, and a multiple cop killer should ever be granted a pardon."
McGinn said the point is whether a government has to keep its promise.