Merel Pontier (LL.M.) studied criminal law at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Law in 2014, and her Master’s degree 2016. Merel has worked for many criminal law firms during her studies. Merel has always had a huge interest in the American criminal justice system. So in 2013, Merel started working for a criminal law firm in New York for six months. This law firm was specialized in white collar crimes, and Merel mostly worked on high-profile fraud cases.
In 2014, being back in The Netherlands, Merel watched the documentary ‘Code Red: The Death Penalty’ about the death penalty. Clinton Young was interviewed about what it was like being on death row. The interview made such an impression on Merel that she decided to write Clinton a letter, letting him know how she felt about the death penalty. Clinton send her a letter back, and many more would follow. Merel has been writing with Clinton ever since, and has visited Clinton numerous times on death row in Texas.
Merel is a strong opposer of the death penalty. After Merel started writing with Clinton, she realized she wanted to do more for those on death row. Inspired by Clinton and his will to live and fight, Merel decided to work in the United States a second time. This time working for a law firm specialized in capital punishment in New Orleans, The United States. She worked on numerous capital cases and visited clients on death row. Before Merel went to New Orleans, Clinton advised her to talk to Renate Bouwmeester. By then, Renate had already worked on capital cases in New Orleans. Merel and Renate did not know each other before then, but quickly became good friends, sharing their passion in fighting the death penalty and their friendship with Clinton.
Merel has a huge passion for sharing Clinton’s story and information on the death penalty with other people, believing education is the key to change. Therefore, Merel visits high schools and universities on a regular basis to talk about this subject with students. Merel also publishes articles on human rights and inhumane punishments in law journals on a regular basis.
In 2017, Merel entered the Foundation as a board member. In August 2019, Merel moved to Texas to start an LLM program at the University of Texas at Austin, US. Merel graduated with an LLM in Capital Punishment in May 2020. The primary focus during her studies was, obviously, on the death penalty, taking courses and a clinic in capital punishment. Merel is a licensed attorney in Texas after she passed the Texas Bar Exam in September 2020. In September 2020, with the help of Paul and Emily, Merel established the Clinton Young Foundation as a non-profit organization in the USA. As of 2021, Merel is the legal director for the foundation, and she has left the Executive Board.