He is now a fixture in Wild West history and a tourist draw for New Mexico, where fans still trace the adventures he carved into the lawless plateaus.
But before he was shot dead by Sheriff Pat Garrett, then-Gov. Lew Wallace had vowed to annul pending charges against him, the Kid's supporters claim – in return for testimony in a murder trial for three other men. The pending charges against the baby-faced gunfighter included ones related to the 1878 shooting death of Sheriff William Brady.
Kid gave the testimony, but an annulment was not forthcoming.
"Here's the ironic thing," Randi McGinn, an Albuquerque, N.M., lawyer who filed a posthumous pardon petition on Kid's behalf, told the Los Angeles Times. "The outlaw kept his promise. The governor didn't."
Outgoing New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who has had an interest in the case since he took office eight years ago, has vowed to make a decision on the pardon request by Dec. 31, his last day in office.
"As someone who is fascinated with New Mexico's rich history, I've always been intrigued by the story of Billy the Kid and, in particular, the alleged promise of a pardon he was given," Governor Richardson said in a statement.
If the pardon is granted, it would not exonerate Kid for all his crimes. It would only make good on Mr. Wallace's promised reprieve, Richardson's office has said.