Crime Film Documentaries

Instructor: James R. Elkins

"Paradise Lost: Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"

[2 hrs. 30 mins.] [film by Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky] [online]


"The landmark documentary that sparked an international movement to 'Free the West Memphis Three', "Paradise Lost" investigates the gruesome 1993 murder of three eight-year-old boys and the three teenagers accused of killing them as part of a Satanic ritual. From real-life courtroom drama and clandestine jailhouse interviews to behind-the-scenes strategy meetings and intimate moments with grief-stricken families, acclaimed filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky were granted unprecedented access to all the players involved, capturing the events as they unfolded. ~



Damen Echols-Wikipedia

Filmmakers on the Film

Joe Berlinger Talks About His Involvement in the film
video posted on the Arkansas Times website, June 3, 2011

"Paradise Lost" directors Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky
Davy Rothbart interview, Grantland, January 12, 2012

Interview with "Paradise Lost" Director Joe Berlinger
Huffington Post, January 28, 2012


Primary Resources

Update on the West Memphis 3 (for viewers of "Paradise Lost: Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills"): "Following a successful decision in 2010 by the Arkansas Supreme Court regarding newly produced DNA evidence, the West Memphis Three reached a deal with prosecutors. On August 19, 2011, they entered Alford pleas, which allow them to assert their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them. Judge David Laser accepted the pleas and sentenced the three to time served. They were released with ten-year suspended sentences, having served 18 years and 78 days in prison." ~ Wikipedia

On the deal that freed the WM3: Deal Frees ‘West Memphis Three' in Arkansas [New York Times, August 20, 2011] :: An insider's view of the legal maneuvers that freed the West Memphis Three [Arkansas Times, Mara Leveritt] :: Three at Last! [Sean Flynn, Gentleman's Quarterly, December 2011]

Damien Echols on his murder conviction, release, and closure
Josh Modell, A.V. Club, January 18, 2013

A Death Row Love Story
New York Times, Oct. 13, 2011

Black & Blue
Boston Magazine, July, 2013

Returned from the Land of the Dead
Damien Echols on "Rectify" :: Huffington Post, April 19, 2013]

Q&A: Eddie Vedder on West Memphis Three
Rolling Stone, Jan. 2, 2013

Damien Echols's Post-Prison Book: Damien Echols, Life After Death (New York: Blue Rider Press, 2012) [Echols is also the author of a self-published memoir, Almost Home: My Life Story (New York: iUniverse, 2005)]

Jason Baldwiin's Post-Prison Book: Mara Leveritt (with Jason Baldwin) Dark Spell: Surviving the Sentence ( Little Rock: Bird Call Press, 2014)

Background on the Case: The best resource on the case is Mara Leveritt's Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three (New York: Atria Books, 2002) [Mara Leveritt's website][The Leveritt book is quite good and is required reading for anyone writing about the WM3 case.][ The Wikipedia entry on the WM3 case is thorough and extensive, and I recommend it.]

Trial Transcripts: A valuable resource in the West Memphis Three case is the trial transcripts of both the Jessie Misskelly trial and the Jason Baldwin/Damen Echols trial. Virtually the entire trial transcript of both the Misskelley trial and the Baldwin/Echols trial can be found at: Trial Transcript (note that some of the trial proceedings are also available in audio, e.g., the Dan Stidham opening statement (Fogelman's opening statement in the Misskelley trial is also available: Fogleman opening statement). [State's Closing Argument (audio) :: Defense Closing Statement (transcript only) :: State's Closing Argument (audio)(Davis)]

The WM3 are released from prison (August 19, 2011):

Compilation of videos

THV archive of older videos: THV videos.

Web Resources: For an extensive collection of web resources on the WM3 case, see: West Memphis Three Web Resources

Appeals Defense Team: To familiarize yourself with the issues raised on appeal in this case, watch the YouTube videos of the appeals defense team and their press conference of November 1, 2007. [Damien Echols Legal Defense Team Press Conference—9:50 mins.] [Press Conference-pt.2—9:41 mins.] [Press Conference-pt.3—10:03 mins.][Press Conference-pt.4—9:59 mins.][Press Conference-pt.5—9:48 mins.][Press Conference-pt.6—9:31 mins.][Press Conference-pt.7—2:15 mins.][Press Conference/Q&A: pt.1—9:57 mins.][Press Conference/Q&A: pt.2—9:48 mins.][Press Conference/Q&A: pt.3—9:53 mins.][Press Conference/Q&A: pt.4—9:46 mins.][Press Conference/Q&A: pt.5—4:32 mins.][Transcript: Damien Echols Legal Defense Team Press Conference]

Law Review Articles

Reproducing a Trial: Evidence and Its Assessment in Paradise Lost
[Jennifer L. Mnookin]
[For a film studies perspective on the "Lost Paradise" films, see: "Paradise Lost" I & II (an essay/review of the two West Memphis Three documentary films by Andy Opel in Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media)]

Dan Stidham, Haley Fitzgerald & Jason Baldwin, Satanic Panic & Defending the West Memphis Three: How Cultural Differences Can Play a Major Role in Criminal Cases, 42 U. Memphis L.Rev.1 (2012)

Kaytee Vota, The Truth Behind Echols v. State: How an Alford Guilty Plea Saved the West Memphis Three, 45 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1003 (2012)

Mara Leveritt, Are 'Voices for Justice' Heard?: A Star-Studded Rally on Behalf of the West Memphis Three Prompts the Delicate Question, 33 UALR L. Rev. 137 (2011)

Note [David S. Mitchell, Jr.], Lock 'Em Up and Throw Away the Key: "The West Memphis Three" and Arkansas's Statute for Post-Conviction Relief Based on New Scientific Evidence," 62 Ark. L. Rev. 501 (2009)

Emily Battersby & Wolfgang G. Robinson, Paradise Lost: Media in Injusice and Injustice in Media, 22 Seton Hall J. Sports & Ent. L. 29 (2012)

J. Thomas Sullivan, Brady, Arkansas Rule 17.1, and Disclosure of Scientific Evidence and Expert Opinion, 35 U. Ark. L.Rev. 245 (2013)

Sydney Schenider, When Innocent Defendants Falsely Confess: Analyzing the Ramifications of Entering Alford Pleas in the Context of the Burgeoning Innocence Movement, 103, J. Crim. L. & Criminology 279 (2013)

On the Use of Snitch Testimony

Web Resources
[collected by Professor Elkins for a course that focused on the WM3 cases]

"Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" (1999)

[2 hrs. 10 mins.] [film by Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky] [online]


"Horrific, disturbing and absolutely fascinating, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations revisits the chilling mystery at the heart of HBO's award-winning hit, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky bring new insight to the controversial case of a trio of Arkansas teenagers convicted of murdering three 8-year-old boys." ~ Netflix



"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" (2011)

[2 hrs. 1 min.] [film by Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky] [online]



"[T]he new installment of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's HBO documentary film series about the notorious 1983 'West Memphis three' child murders, chronicles the 18-year fight to prove the innocence of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, incarcerated for an alleged Satantic ritual killing that the convicted men—and their supporters worldwide—maintain they did not commit. ~ DVD cover


Film Trailer


"West of Memphis" (2012)

[2 hrs. 7 mins.] [Amy Berg director] [Damien Echols & Lorri Davis producers]


West of Memphis" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 and at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2012. Sony Pictures Classics scheduled theater release of the film for January 2013. ~ Wikipedia

"The evidence was flimsy and contrived, the confessions extracted under duress, the social prejudice palpable and perjury rife. But it took 17 years of investigation, much of it paid for by the New Zealand film-maker Peter Jackson , to right even partially this gross miscarriage of justice." ~ Philip French, The Observer [review]

Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens discuss "West of Memphis"
AICN Exclusive, December 5, 2011

Peter jackson's West of Memphis: the Tale of Three Wronged Men
The Guardian, December 21, 2012

Damien Echols: Post-Prison

Huntington Post Live Interview
[27:42 mins.] [with Damien Echols and Amy Berg, the director of the documentary film "West of Memphis"]

Damien Echols: How I Survived Death Row
The Guardian, May 25, 2013

Jason Baldwin : Post-Prison

Jason Baldwin & Holly Ballard Interview
[47:20 mins.] [published on Dec. 20, 2013]

Jason Baldwin Interview
[10:46 mins.] ["The Morning Show"] [published on Nov. 22, 2013]

Jason Baldwin Interview
[12:50 mins.] [published on Nov. 21, 2013]

WM3 in a Post-Prison Appearance

West Memphis Three Panel Discussion
[7:25 mins.] [On October 10, 2011 at HBO in New York City, the WM3 and the filmmakers of "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" gathered for the first time since their release from prison on August 10, 2011]