They landed in Memphis, Tennessee, and drove across the Mississippi River to West Memphis. A local reporter showed them around and explained the case in terms of certain guilt. So did everyone else they met. “Absolutely, without exception, every person we met: rotten teens,” Berlinger says. He and Sinofsky decided to embed themselves for the duration of the trials. They would film the families of the victims and the accused, the prosecutors and the defense attorneys, and they would film inside the courtroom. When it was all over, they expected to have footage they could sift and splice into a narrative of murderous, misbegotten youths. “A real-life River’s Edge,” Berlinger says now. “That’s the irony in this whole thing: We went down to do a story about rotten teens.”

That was not the point of the film they released three years later. Rather, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills is a chronicle of fear and hysteria in the aftermath of a terrible crime. But mainly it is about three innocent kids and the persecution of misfits masquerading as a prosecution.

“Three at Last!” — Sean Flynn, GQ

More from Flynn: “Boom.” GQ, July 2010