Will Billy the Kid Be Pardoned? Governor Has Until Friday

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William "Billy the Kid" Bonney

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Billy the Kid to get a pardon? Excuse me?

Friday is set to be D-Day in the strangest — and arguably last — case of the year we’re all reasonably calling 2010. The governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, has until December 31 to decide whether to pardon the outlaw in the case of a killing of a sheriff, which dates back to 1881. The reason for the late December date is that Richardson’s term will then be up.

(See Billy the Kid in TIME’s top 10 bandits.)

There have been around 400 responses on a website dedicated to the oft-asked question (the split is roughly 220-180 in favor of granting the pardon) but Richardson, a known Billy the Kid buff, is doing this in response to an old promise by another governor. It’s believed that territorial Gov. Lew Wallace made a vow to the Kid (who was born Henry McCarty, and was also known as William H. Bonney and Henry Antrim), who died at the hands of Sheriff Pat Garrett, at the age of 21 (though young, the Kid was believed to have gunned down somewhere between nine and 21 men.)

Defense attorney Randi McGinn filed the petition for the pardon and has volunteered to handle the case for free. “A promise is a promise and should be enforced,” she wrote. But Richardson’s deputy chief of staff, Eric Witt, responded, “We’re not offering a blanket pardon for everything he did.”

(See the top 10 unsolved crimes.)

Gov. Wallace — who has a pretty interesting back story himself considering he was a Union general in the Civil War and wrote a certain novel called Ben-Hur — supposedly promised to grant the Kid amnesty for the killing of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady and other “misdeeds” if he agreed to testify before a grand jury investigating another murder. But while the Kid played ball, the pardon wasn’t forthcoming. And in the dying hours of a year 130 on from the Kid’s own death, we shall soon find out what kind of second ending he will receive. (via CNN)