Bill Richardson had been asked to pardon the infamous 19th Century bandit in order to fulfil a promise supposedly made in exchange for court testimony but Richardson reportedly told US TV that Billy the Kid’s name – linked to as many as 27 murders – would not be cleared.
Billy the Kid was shot dead after escaping from jail in 1881, aged 21.
Albuquerque lawyer Randi McGinn recently began a campaign for his pardon, alleging that New Mexico’s territorial governor, Lew Wallace, had promised the outlaw a chance at freedom if he testified in a murder case against three men.
Bill Richardson, New Mexico’s current governor, leaves office at the end of 2010 and was asked to consider a pardon before he exits the governor’s mansion.
However, Mr Richardson said he decided against a pardon “because of a lack of conclusiveness and the historical ambiguity as to why Governor Wallace reneged on his promise”.
Reputedly born in New York, Billy the Kid – known as one of the most notorious gunfighters of the American West – moved to Colorado with his mother and brothers when his father died.
Thievery and lawlessness became his career and he was hunted across the southern US states and northern Mexico. The Kid is believed to have killed 21 people, although some sources put the figure as high as 27. New Mexico’s tourism officials put the number as low as nine.
He was eventually captured by Sheriff Patrick Floyd Garrett, and stood trial for the 1878 murder and was sentenced to hang. He however made his escape from prison on 30th April 1881, killing two deputies in the process and fleeing.
Garrett eventually tracked him down, ambushed and killed him on 14th July 1881.
Content lifted from BBC