Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills is a documentary film about the trials of three teenage boys in West Memphis, Arkansas for the murder and sexual mutilation of three prepubescent boys. The boys on trial for the crime are fans of heavy metal music but seem to have little else in common aside from being misfits: Jesse Misskelly, a boy with an IQ of 72; Damien Wayne Echols, a teenager who was interested in joining the priesthood but also was interested in the writings of Aleister Crowley; and the generally taciturn Jason Baldwin.
After a twelve-hour interrogation, the last 45 minutes of which was taped, Misskelly testifies against his friends, stating that they caught the boys and killed them. The police use Misskelly's testimony to prosecute Misskelly, Echols, and Baldwin. The defense attorneys argue that the testimony was both coerced and guided, and contains many inaccuracies--for instance, Misskelly states that he and his friends killed the boys at noon, but at noon the boys weren't yet out of school.
During the course of the filming, Mark Byers, the father of one of the victims, gives the filmmakers a knife which has blood in the hinge. The filmmakers turn the knife over to police, who examine it; the DNA matches that of the boy but the evidence is nonetheless inconclusive since his father's DNA would be quite similar. Other evidence is lost. All three teenagers are convicted.
The film was followed by a sequel, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, which suggests that further evidence was missed or suppressed, and attempts to prove Echols' innocence.