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Biotech Science

Billy the Kid Faces The Law... Again 274

Jason Raddin writes "MSNBC.com has an interesting story about a new showdown in the Old West. It seems as if Billy the Kid can still cause problems for the law-men of New Mexico, even as he rests in his grave. Several small New Mexico towns claim to possess the "true" grave of Billy the Kid (a.k.a. William H. Bonney, Henry McCarty, Kid Antrim). Two sheriffs in Capitan, New Mexico have proposed that this mystery be solved using modern DNA testing. The proposal was made in June to exhume the remains of Bonney's mother and the two reported graves of Bonney. This has spurred a hot legal debate raising an interesting question: which is more important, tourist dollars or the truth?"
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Billy the Kid Faces The Law... Again

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  • What about... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stile 65 ( 722451 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:04PM (#7460783) Homepage Journal
    ...the rights of the dead buried people that they're digging up?

    Who owns those plots of land? Do dead bodies automatically become the property of the state?
    • Re:What about... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Highrollr ( 625006 )
      According to some passage I read while studying for the LSAT, relatives of the deceased have rights to the bodies and anything buried with them, provided they can show proof.
      • This is precisely why I am going to have myself cremated.

        To make it even harder for the ghouls, I am going to have my ashes spread at various places on earth (perhaps a small capsule sent to the moon?).

        This serves several purposes:

        1. No need to buy a burial plot - which saves space for someone else.
        2. I can become part of some of the places I always wanted to go but wasn't able to.
    • You forget, this is America, where the dollar reigns supreme. Not only will they dig them up, they'll broadcast it live with Heraldo Riviera doing the commentary. And I'll betcha there will be at least 2 made-for-tv movies out of this before it's all over.

      All that being said, you're exactly right.


    • Re:What about... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fa098h23fra ( 462115 )
      I agree, the rights of the corpse to stay buried supercede everything else. I mean, what if I die and years later my friends want to settle a bet about whether I really did have that superfluous third nipple? Can they exhume my corpse and do some kind of test? I say, leave the dead in the ground where they belong.
      • No shit. When I'm dead I don't want them digging up my ass in a 100 years. Going to have my dead ass creamated and my ashes spread over a pot field, so in a year or so all my friends can get together and have one more toke on me.

      • If you're dead, does it really even matter? You're just a bunch of decaying organic matter at that point -- food for worms, bugs, and microorganisms. You aren't you anymore.
    • ...the rights of the dead buried people that they're digging up?

      What about the rights of the "fakes" to not be buried under a marker with someone elses name?

      I won't pretend to know the answer to that one, but I do know that when I'm dead and gone, I'd hate to think that 200 years from now I might be under a stone marked "Bill Gates" :).


    • As soon as the paiments for renting the plot of land stop coming, the dead body automatically goes to the owner of the land. And in that case, that may very well be the government.

      Once the body is identified, the body should just be sold to the highest bidder. I think that's fair. If a city really wants him, it will have to put its money where it's mouth is. Hell, it would be even nicer if one of our American cities went in on the action. God only knows, our cities need the attraction to break the monoton

  • The Truth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeffasselin ( 566598 ) <cormacolinde@gmai l . com> on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:07PM (#7460805) Journal
    Really. I mean is there even an argument here?
    • Re:The Truth (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 )
      But in this case, is the truth of any real importance? I can't see any reason to possibly destroy people's livelihood over something that really doesn't matter.
      • On the other hand, maybe the REAL town will benefit from the certainty. If people don't know which site is the real one, people might just skip it entirely as a tourist destination. Moreover, all the publicity of DNA testing can't help but bring in more people. So you're forcing one town to live below its potential to save the tourist industry in the other three. Also, if there's no non-tourist economy in these towns, it seems to me that people ought to leave, just like people have left all those other
        • Also, if there's no non-tourist economy in these towns, it seems to me that people ought to leave

          Good idea! And on that note, we should also begin the process of abandoning Las Vegas, the Bahamas, and every other tourist destination that survives solely by ... well, by being a tourist destination!
          • > on that note, we should also begin the process of abandoning Las Vegas, the Bahamas, and every other tourist destination that survives solely by ... well, by being a tourist destination

            The difference, in this case, is finding out after the fact that you thought you were one place, but were not. Like a tour bus took you to Las Vegas for the hookers, then you found out later that you were in Colorado instead. But I think that Las Vegas should be bombed.
    • remember, we are talking about it being an issue with POLITICIANS... the truth has very little to do with anything; in fact, the truth can be detrimental (in their view, anyway).

      There are alegedly three resting places of Billy, all of them being in different cities, and being tourist attractions. Obviously, at least two of them are going to be disproved (provided all of them arent).

      This means that, as far as tourist sites, they are going to lose out; they would rather be a possible resting place of The Kid

    • The way the poster worded this he might as well have said "what is the best political party, Green party or Natural Law?". Does the rights of the dead resting in peace and any of his ancestors play a role here?
    • Re:The Truth (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eln ( 21727 )
      Billy the Kid is no longer purely just a person who lived, killed some people, and died. He is a bona fide, larger-than-life legend. People go to these places to enjoy the stories of Billy the Kid, many of which are probably apocryphal, but make for good copy nonetheless.

      By digging up some ratty old pile of bones, you are destroying the mystique of the Kid. No one cares if these graves really hold the actual bones of Billy the Kid. People go to these places to experience the legend up close, not for a
  • Right, so this is a very suspense-inducing story. I can tell. I just have to wonder, though, as this sort of thing doesn't really inspire suspense in me (plugging in a new cable does, though), why is this story on Slashdot? I mean, really. I'd rather hear about someone (or even several towns) digging up his (or anyone's for that matter) remains and rigging them with wireless technology that allows people to control their movements. Now that would be cool...
    but this? bah...
    • by c0dedude ( 587568 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:25PM (#7460926)
      News For Nerds, Stuff that matters. That's the test. A new technology comes in that lets you determine identity accuratly, 100%. A man has died and been buried for around 100 years. The question here is: "Should technology be used retroactivly?"

      Consider the following example. A person is murdered. A murder-machine is invented 100 years after the person is killed that tells who killed a person even 100 years after the person died. Is it ethical to put the families of the suspects (all the suspects are long dead) through the trauma of knowing that their grandfather was a murderer?

      Geekdom is occasionally concerned with science fiction, and science fiction creates worlds with rules designed such that the author can play with an idea. Here, the rules change such that a person can determine identity 100%. This change makes this News for Nerds, and I'd certanly say that the issue of retroactive technology, which can include DNA Testing, Mitochondrial DNA, and Cryogenics, matters.
  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:11PM (#7460833) Homepage
    But the mayors of Fort Sumner and Silver City say they won't let the bodies buried in their towns be disturbed, and that sets the stage for a legal showdown in December when New Mexico District Court Judge Jim Foy is to consider the matter.

    Mayor Lopez: Draw.
    Sheriff Graves: No!
    (Lopez pauses)
    Graves: I thought we could settle this like men!
    Lopez: You thought wrong, dude.

    (Back to the Future ref for those of you in the sad sad dark.)
  • by gloth ( 180149 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:14PM (#7460853)
    What if they do the DNA tests and it turns out that Billy the Kid isn't in either of those graves?
  • Better Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pcbob ( 67069 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:17PM (#7460876) Homepage
    I would think that more important question to be raised here is how moral/ethical it is to dig out graves for tourists' money.
    • Didn't Tutankhamen settle that?

      • by randyest ( 589159 )
        No, that was so long ago, and more importantly from a non-Xtian culture, so the death-fearing crowd aren't so worried about it. But this story is about an early (Xtian) American corpse, so the Xtians will cry "let him rest in peace" and have "respect for the dead" (silliest. idea. ever.) until we all either recoil in disgust and confusion, or just laugh ourselves silly at just how afraid of death Xtians are. Ironic, isn't it?
        • So what the hell is a Xtian?
    • I would think that more important question to be raised here is how moral/ethical it is to dig out graves for tourists' money.

      As long as the tourists keep hiding their money in graves, why shouldn't I dig it up?

  • by Karadryel ( 644871 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:18PM (#7460883)
    This has spurred a hot legal debate raising an interesting question: which is more important, tourist dollars or the truth?

    Whatever happened to the whole "rest in peace" notion? Let me get this in writing right now: if someone comes diggin' me up in a century or so, I am *so* gonna haunt that guy!

  • How about respect? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KFury ( 19522 ) * on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:19PM (#7460887) Homepage
    "...which is more important, tourist dollars or the truth?"

    How about respecting the dead? Is 'loss of tourism' really the best answer we can come up with to not open up two people's graves (at least one of whom is assuredly not Billy the Kid)?
    • How about respecting the dead? Is 'loss of tourism' really the best answer we can come up with to not open up two people's graves (at least one of whom is assuredly not Billy the Kid)?

      Bah! Respecting the dead, sure. But what's the point of respecting their corpses? It's not like they're in there anymore.

    • by Epistax ( 544591 )
      I too don't buy into that respect-leftover-biomass business. After someone is dead, their body is as good as their last shit really, except for the numerous scientific and medical uses. Now that I think about it, it could be kind of nice to keep a DNA record of people after they die so extensive biological histories could be kept (think of people in the year 3000 looking up their heritage). Of course this will incite that whole privacy debate and everyone is out to get everyone.

      This probably isn't a sm
      • I think your comment about DNA will get overlooked because you talk about not respecting 'leftover-biomass'. Anyways, I think its a good idea, and not just so people can look up their lineage. Its always handy to have lots of variety around in case of a nuclear winter or if we want to study hereditary whatevers. Now for the important part: Privacy. Its simple. This project/foundation/institution, whatever you want to call it should be independant of the gov't and for the kicker: Your DNA can't be touched fo
    • How about respecting the dead? Is 'loss of tourism' really the best answer we can come up with to not open up two people's graves (at least one of whom is assuredly not Billy the Kid)?

      What about the respect for Billy the Kid so that we know his true grave or out of respect for someone who we believe is someone else, maybe we may find out their true identity instead of remembering them as someone else. I believe in this case finding the truth would be respecting the dead.
    • IHT Article [iht.com]

      Why? Because it may reveal that one Sheriff Garrett was really a murderer, covering his crime with wild claims. This would serve justice to his victim. The effort will be made to verify the claims of Brushy Bill Roberts of Texas who died at the age of 90 claiming to be the muderous outlaw. If this man is Billy the Kid, is it so distasteful to disturb his grave, seeing as how he sent so many people to their graves? To exhume the man who claimed to be Billy The Kid would dispoil the grave of

    • Indeed. One of my more common rants while watching TeeVee or reading the paper is about those archeologists who get excited about excavating some poor sods grave and reconstructing his face from their skull!

      How the fuck would they like to have some bearded hippy and his braless teenage sidekick dig up his skull, scoop out the insides, declare that he had funny teeth so muct have been a weaver and proceed to give him a huge shnozz and disproportionately large eyeballs and stick him in a case for a few years
  • This is not (Score:2, Informative)

    by xgamer04 ( 248962 )
    a biotech issue. It is a moral issue. I wouldn't want people digging up my great-grandmother, and I don't think Billy would like it either.
  • You'd think that this could be done without exhuming full remains - using ground penetrating radar (the kind employed to find buried pipes) generate a 3D map and select a good drilling site. Drill/dig down a small column, select a piece, and fill; minor damage done.

    This would probably cost more and admittedly does leave you with the problem of making sure you "strike it rich" on the drilling and may have to make multiple entry attempts, but wouldn't that bring even more media attention and tourist interes
  • And just what happens when they discover that none of those people are Billy the Kid?

    Bye bye tourist dollars.
    • Since dollars are at stake, a nationwide DNA database will be formed and all citizens will be required to sumbit to DNA testing.

      This will of course be super-patriotic, funded by tax dollars, and at last answer the question: Who is hiding in Elvis' grave?

  • Epitaph from the grave of William Shakespeare: Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare to digg the dvst encloased heare. Blese be ye man yt spares thes stones and cvrst be he yt moves my bones.
  • by JayBlalock ( 635935 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:51PM (#7461068)
    He may have been a real person once, but today, Billy the Kid is a mythological figure no different than Zeus or Odin. Without delving too deeply into Campbell, I'd say that going to all this effort to prove which is THE Mister The Kid really accomplishes nothing, when allowing his stories to thrive uninterrupted provides a psychological service.
    • You raise a good point, but we're not talking about going back in time and filming his actual exploits (which were no doubt more mundane than the stories recalling them). I don't think that establishing a SINGLE Billy the Kid will take away from the mythology that has evolved around his legacy, it will just screw one of those two towns out of some US$10k annual or so in tourists ordering coffee at their local diner and buying "I Pissed on Billy The Kid's Grave" t-shirts. Not zero-sum by any means, but the
  • Can I get my DNA stored in a secure, verifiable location so they won't have to dig my dead body up 100 years from now to test my DNA???

    Oh yeah, I will be famous by then!!! Though they might still dig me up to pry my rocking Voodoo3 3500 out of my dead cold hands!!!
  • by SetarconeX ( 160251 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @11:58PM (#7461115)
    I've got a lot of family in New Mexico and Arizona, and I've actually been to a couple towns which claim to have his body, and you know what?

    Nobody really cares, outside of those towns.

    The problem is, some of these town, having basically nothing aside from big-ass desert, have so little in the way of anything whatsoever, that some of these little towns a hundred miles from anything have to go out of their ways to rationalize their existance.

    And you know what's really shocking? It's not even a tourist thing. There's not that much cash in it. Nobody makes holy pilgrimages to Billy the Kid's tomb. It's a pride thing. It's completely about these towns wanting some claim to history, however miniscule.

    It's rather sad really. Not unlike the town of Roswell, where you can't go downtown without seeing a dozen shops selling schlocky plastic alien trinkets.
    • by Andurin ( 653272 ) <andurin@gmail.com> on Thursday November 13, 2003 @04:57AM (#7462335) Homepage
      I actually live in Silver City. I was born and raised here. What I can assure all of you is that this story has been around [stasistech.com] (my intial report in June) for awhile, and the reason it hasn't been settled yet is because we like to fight about everything. The local paper has been covering the story [thedailypress.com], if you want another perspective on things:
      They include the statement that Catherine Antrim, buried in Memory Lane Cemetery, has a "legal right to repose in her grave"; Silver City is charged with the management of the cemetery; the town is "empowered to preserve and protect historical landmarks within its jurisdiction, including Catherine Antrim's grave site, under the Historic District and Landmark Act,"; and the town must protect the dignity of "those interred on its public grounds."
      However, as far as tourism goes, NM does have alot to offer. No flashy lights or big buidlings, but we have National Monuments, Parks, and Forests, along with countless state monuments and parks. Perhaps you might want to check out the Gila Cliff Dwellings [nps.gov], or the City of Rocks [state.nm.us], or take a tour of ghost towns [ghosttowngathering.com]. You can do all three within an hour and a half drive from Silver City. We have thirty-three art galleries downtown, access to just about any outdoor activity you can think of, and host the Tour of the Gila [tourofthegila.com], a prominent cycling road race, every spring. And that's just Silver City.

      I certainly agree that this might be getting a little too much attention. However, I think it might be taking it a little far to think that Silver City is trying to rationalize its existence on the fact that Billy the Kid's mom is buried here. In fact, aside from post cards, I've never really seen any Billy the Kid merchandise. Maybe I should go into business.

  • "which is more important, tourist dollars or the truth?"

    There's money involved. Go for the truth. To do less while continuing to rake in tourist dollars is fraud and false advertising.
  • Grave digging for tourist dollars is unethical. period. What ever happened to R.I.P?

    Don't these cops have anything better to do than chase 100+ year old dead criminals?
  • In a modern utopic society where people are not selfish and always consider one another's best interests before acting, the truth would of course be more important. In a capitalist American society, however, it all boils down to the almighty buck.
  • Theres (Score:2, Interesting)

    there no need for diggin up bodies, dna tests and the like.
    there is a simple way to solve this exact problem [loc.gov]
  • by MacDork ( 560499 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @01:11AM (#7461502) Journal

    Homer Jay Simpson: Dig him up! Dig up that corpse! If you really love Jebediah Springfield, you'll haul his bones out of the ground to prove my daughter wrong! Dig up his grave! Pull out his tongue!

    Mayor 'Diamond' Joe Quimby: Can't we have one meeting that doesn't end with us digging up a corpse?

    Besides, what happens when neither corpse is the Kid? I mean, anyone who has seen the Simpsons Halloween special knows he's buried in Springfield, just waiting for all of us to throw away our guns! :-)

  • Along these lines, what I would like to see, now that Sally Hemmings' descendents have been proven to have the Jefferson Y chromosome, is to have them tested against both Randolph and Thomas Jefferson's DNA.
  • He is kept alive by small machines, maintaining his bodily functions. Where is he? Well, you might be suprised, but I have DNA evidence that proves Billy the Kid is really DICK CHENEY! Find him, you got 'the Kid', although he is about 140 years old now.

    There are a few references out there of Billy moonlighting [theage.com.au] at some other professions as well.

    This is Slashdot! I thought everyone knew this. Do some reasearch, people!

  • by darnok ( 650458 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @01:36AM (#7461644)
    To precis the story:
    - popular legend has it that Billy the Kid was buried in place A
    - some guy said "I'm Billy the Kid" before he died, and he's buried in place B
    - another guy said "I'm Billy the Kid" before he died, and he's buried in place C

    Surely places A, B and C are all benefitting from tourist dollars out of the pockets of people wanting to see the "real" Billy the Kid's hole in the ground.

    Why on earth would the officials in place A want to (a) disturb the remains of 4 people (3 Kids and mum), (b) potentially wreck the tourism incomes of places B & C, and (c) potentially wreck the tourism income of their own town? If (c) happens, then I figure they won't be re-elected and will probably need to find a new place to live.

    Surely the commonsense thing for guys in towns A, B & C is to leave things exactly as they are, and try to fuel the mystery of BtK's final resting place as part of his mystique.

    "They think they've got him somewhere else, but old Mabel up the road remembers his grandson who lived just next door and he was a helluva shot with a gun, just like ol' Billy. Killed 150 buffalo in an afternoon with his bare hands, he did, and ate 'em all for dinner that night; never seen a buffalo in these parts since. You can see the family resemblance in this here photo, and you can get your own copy for only $5"
  • Consider the great emphasis the Mormon Church puts on having a complete geneology of humanity, presumably to present on Judgment Day just in case St. Peter's own accounting department has been infiltrated by ex-Enronians. Then consider common estimates that 1 in 5 children born in wedlock is not actually of the husband. We must, for religious reasons good enough to keep several senators in DC representing the Angel Moroni, find out the truth. Let's dig up everyone from whom genetic samples are still attaina
  • If any of you feel that a certain viewpoint was left out....namely respecting the dead, feel free to send a POLITE email to the author [mailto],Alan Boyle.

  • There are even reports that Billy the Kid died in Texas and was buried in Hico, Texas. Ask anyone from Hico about it and you're likely to get a long explanation about Pat Garrett allowed Billy the Kid to get out of state on the quiet as long as he didn't reveal his true identity. So, he went to Hico. Hico is on Highway 6 about 60 miles or so west of Waco.
    • Refer to my other post [slashdot.org] on Brushy Bill Roberts - I bet it's the connection you're looking for.

      For those of you who have seen the movie "Young Guns II", Brushy Bill Roberts is not just some character the writers came up with, he's for real. Whether he really was William H. Bonney, nobody knows.

  • "Other people in other states have done this with Jesse James. They want to prove their history. And if history has to change, so be it."

    History will remain exactly the same as it was. Only our accounting of it will change.
  • who wants to see if it's possible to have a legal adult that looks and feels like a child?

    Harvesting DNA. :Shrudder: :vomit:
  • And, after they figure out who (if anybody) has the remains of Billy the Kid, I think they should gather together a bunch of relics from cathedrals, do some DNA comparison between them, and figure out once and for all if John the Baptist really did have four skulls, six hands, and three tongues.
  • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @09:56AM (#7463403)
    which is more important, tourist dollars or the truth?"

    Our country is littered with "historical" markers that bear only the faintest resemblances to the events they supposedly commemorate. These Billy the Kid graves are just a tiny spur of that iceberg. History is in the thrall of local chambers of commerce. Think they want to tell a story that isn't favorable to their area?

    The number of museums to Custer that are out there is an okay example of when it's just innocent squabbling, not a total whitewash. There are collections of Custer memorabilia scattered from Michigan to North Dakota (and of course Montana), and they're all bitterly opposed to giving up a scrap from his leather belt. It's a matter of tourism and civic pride. Want to see the definitive Custer exhibit? Get ready to spend a summer.

    That's when it isn't the obviously censored version. James Loewen wrote a decent, fun little book, "Lies Across History," about those. Monuments to Confederate dead in Montana -- not a state, not even a territory, during the Civil War. References to "battles" all over the place, when they weren't battles at all: the Mormons ambush and slaughter a huge wagon train of settlers, but the monument calls it a battle with the federal government. And so on.

    So your answer is: Tourist Dollars.

  • Wait for a good rain! http://www.rosenet.org/library/historyimages/cemet eries2.jpg
  • by Bendebecker ( 633126 ) on Thursday November 13, 2003 @12:18PM (#7464628) Journal
    He's still alive: last time anyone saw him, he was coaching the mighty ducks!
  • Springfield (Score:2, Funny)

    by Vorgo ( 448106 )
    Everyone knows that he's buried in Springfield!

    It was on the Simpson's. It _must_ be true!

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein