New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is at the end of his term. What is the burning issue Richardson has brought to the forefront of the end of his time in office? Should he or shouldn't he issue a pardon to the very dead Billy the Kid?
Why is Richardson pursuing this? Who knows what the long time politician is thinking here but it mostly appears to be a grab at headlines as he leaves office. It looks desperate. Isn't it enough for Richardson that the rumors are growing loud that he will replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State?
That was the buzz at the end of the year, the slow news days at the end of 2010.
A little background to refresh our memories on the Old West legend:
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.
And, then for added drama, Richardson made his decision public at the last minute.
Richardson said he decided against a pardon "because of a lack of conclusiveness and the historical ambiguity as to why Gov. Wallace reneged on his promise."
Maybe he did it because of all the publicity outgoing Florida Governor Crist has garnered over the pardon of singer Morrison of the Doors. I would argue that a rock and roller's drug conviction does not fall in the same light as a potential pardon of a murdering thief.
Maybe that is just me, though.
Sheriff Pat Garrett's grandson J.P. Garrett and Wallace's great-grandson William Wallace expressed outrage over a pardon after Richardson set up a website in mid-December to hear from the public.
The website was established after Albuquerque attorney Randi McGinn submitted a formal petition for a pardon.
Richardson's office received 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.
McGinn argued that Lew Wallace promised to pardon the Kid, also known as William Bonney or Henry McCarty.
State resources were used in this exercise, it appears. The attorney requesting the pardon also appears to have been a factor, considering her husband was appointed to the state's Supreme Court by Richardson.
Doesn't New Mexico have greater issues to be handled? Incoming Republican Governor Susana Martinez thinks so. Richardson fancies himself an Old West history buff. He said in an interview that considering this pardon was "fun".
Pardons are serious decisions. It's just as well that Richardson's time is up.