After graduating from Northwestern in 2018, Meridyth pursued a master’s degree in forensic psychology at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. Her studies showed her the need to advocate for people in underserved populations who fall victim to errors within the criminal justice system. Today, she serves as an investigator and mitigation specialist for a program that seeks to appeal the death penalty for prisoners who were sentenced unjustly—showing them the freedom found in Christ’s forgiveness firsthand.
What does your work involve?
As an investigator for a death penalty appeals program, I spend most of my time speaking with the family members of clients on death row and building rapport with clients through face-to-face interviews. Some days, I’m in the office collecting and reviewing clients’ trial transcripts or mental health, medical and school records. During my review of these documents, I’m looking for errors that may have been made in past trials—such as discounting a client’s mental health or intellectual disability—or aspects of the case that were left undeveloped. Other days I am out in the field looking for witnesses and family members to interview or visiting clients at the prison. Our team seeks to obtain new trials to help our clients off death row.
How does your faith impact your efforts to change a client’s story?
I have never been on a case where a sentence has been overturned, because it takes many years to even get to a new trial. But everyone deserves forgiveness and mercy—and that is what I am fighting for. Jesus died and rose again for our sins, including for prisoners on death row. These clients are human, they are flawed, and—if their lives are spared—they will have a long road ahead of them in prison, but they are still worthy of the forgiveness found in Christ’s love.
What are the strengths of Northwestern’s psychology department?
Northwestern’s psychology professors are dedicated, personable and caring educators. You are able to build a connection with each of your professors, which makes going to class and digging deep into a topic so much more rewarding. Dr. Feenstra has had an impact on my career in many ways. She assisted me with my research while I was a student and always encourages me to pursue what I am passionate about. The department’s opportunities for hands-on research also prepares you for your career or for furthering your education in a graduate program.
How did Northwestern prepare you to lead a life of significance?
Northwestern helped me seek a career that has meaning and purpose. I believe justice and mercy are important, and my experiences at NWC prepared me to fight for those who have never had someone to fight for them.