The boys on trial for the crime are: Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin, also known as the West Memphis 3.
Despite a lack of any significant evidence indicating that they are connected to the case at all, the three boys are charged and tried for the murders.
A common theme throughout the film is the treatment of the boys based on their appearances and tastes in music, possibly as a Satanic ritual abuse.
During the course of the filming, John Mark Byers, the stepfather 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 is similar to that of himself and the boy but the evidence is nonetheless inconclusive since the DNA evidence produced was fragmented and can not provide concrete links. Other evidence is lost. All three teenagers are convicted.
The film was followed by a sequel, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000), which suggests that further evidence was missed or suppressed and attempts to prove Echols’ innocence.