Updated: Thursday, 17 Feb 2011, 1:42 PM MST
Published : Thursday, 23 Dec 2010, 5:59 PM MST
SANTA FE (KRQE) - "A promise is a promise, and should be kept," Albuquerque attorney Randi McGinn said of a purported deal with a killer 130 years ago. "And when the government makes a deal with you and promises something, it should keep your word."
McGinn has filed for a pardon on behalf of Billy the Kid, today the most famous figure in New Mexico's Lincoln County War . She says her research shows Territorial New Mexico Gov. Lew Wallace promised the kid a pardon, one he never received.
But many people have become thoroughly outspoken against the pardon.
"Setting up a governor-authorized website asking for input whether to pardon a cop killer is a little unusual," said Jim Burleson, the Executive Director of the New Mexico Sheriffs and Police Association. "It's a little disgusting for most of us in law enforcement,"
"The issue isn't whether he was an outlaw or a good person," McGinn said. "The issue is whether the government has to keep its promise."
She said her research of letters written by Billy the Kid, which is available on the governor’s Billy the Kid website , shows Wallace promised Billy a pardon.
But one Kid historian disagrees.
"Lew Wallace's only letter to Billy said, 'I have the power to protect you from prosecution,’ not that he would," said Gale Cooper, who has written three books about Billy the Kid.
Cooper said Wallace was interviewed by a newspaper, and that’s the greatest clue proving Wallace didn’t want to grant Billy a pardon.
"Billy was two weeks away from hanging for the murder of (Sheriff) William Brady , and Wallace said, ‘I would not give clemency to a man like him,’" she said.
But McGinn still argues a promise is a promise.
"Does he have to keep his promise or can he say, ' Kings X , I was just tricking you into testifying,' and now he doesn't have to keep his promise," she continued. "The law says he has to keep his promise."
Burleson and the descendants of former Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett said they think this is all just a gimmick and that Richardson is just looking for more publicity.
Cooper said she thinks the renewed interest in Billy the Kid could mean a tourism boom for the state, though she doesn’t agree with the argument provided to the governor that supports a pardon.
Still, McGinn argued, "It's never too late to do the right thing."