Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Death of Innocence - The Murder of Young Shanda Sharer

Melinda Loveless Seeks Early Release

Melinda Loveless
Melinda Loveless
In October 2007 Melinda Loveless's attorney, Mark Small, announced that she as well was seeking an early release from prison. Small said he would argue that Loveless's sentencing rights were violated and that she had received insufficient legal representation.

"She pled guilty under duress, believing that she faced the death penalty," Small recently said in an interview with "A person does something under duress when they can't freely choose and face a threat. The law was changing at that time on the death penalty. At that point she wasn't really looking at execution."

It was Small's belief that his client had served her time and that the judgment should be vacated. She is, according to Small, both reformed and remorseful.

Shanda's mother, Jacque Vaught, was upset at the prospect of Loveless being freed from prison.

"She is not remorseful. She has never contacted me or shown remorse. She is not capable of remorse. She is dead inside," Vaught said in a recent interview with "The only tears that I've ever seen her shed were when she was sentenced, and the only thing that she has tried to do since going to prison is get out."

According to Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis, Loveless had adequate legal representation during her sentencing hearing, and he strongly objected to a modification of her sentence.

A Jefferson Circuit Court was expected to hear the case on October 15, 2007; however that hearing was postponed on the grounds that her attorney was denied access to his client before the hearing was to begin.

According to Small, he had attempted to visit Melinda Loveless twice to prepare for the hearing, and both times was refused access to his client because jail officials said they were busy with bookings.

"It's very important for an attorney to consult with his or her client, especially right before a major hearing," Small told

The judge agreed with Small and granted a 60-day continuance.

Prior to the ruling, Small spoke with During a telephone interview, he said that Loveless had been abused as a child and that the severity of the abuse had made her "profoundly retarded." Small also said his client had pled guilty under duress because she was afraid of facing the death sentence and did not understand all her options.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis disagreed with Small. During an interview with the same website, Lewis balked at claims that Loveless had ineffective counsel.

"She had three attorneys, two who were very high-profile with death penalty cases," Lewis said. "She had a dream team, so to speak. . . [She] also had a proven benefit from pleading guilty to the charges in that she avoided the death penalty."


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