Were it not for HBO's persistence in chronicling the railroading of three teens, who became known as the West Memphis 3, two would have languished in prison, and one would have been put to death.
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley spent 18 years imprisoned for murders they maintained they did not commit; Echols was on death row.
HBO's third documentary of the harrowing story, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," premieres Thursday, Jan. 12.
Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky dedicate it to the victims. Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, 8-year-old Cub Scouts, were murdered, mutilated and left in the woods of West Memphis, Ark., in 1993.
The suspects were freed in August under the confusing Alford Plea, allowing them to maintain their innocence but saying they were guilty.
"It's a compromise and basically an offer we couldn't refuse," Dan Stidham, Misskelley's lawyer, says after the New York screening of the film.
"Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" (1996) explains the savage murders and how the suspects, heavy-metal music fans who wore black, were quickly arrested. Why their tastes made them suspects is never clear.
By the second, "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" (2000) John Byers, stepfather of one of the murdered boys, is so unhinged he appears to be a suspect.
The third film redeems Byers, but many question Terry Hobbs, stepfather of Stevie Branch. Hobbs has no alibi, and a hair that matches Hobbs' DNA was found on ligatures hogtying the boys.
There could be another film.
"If the story needs to be told, we will tell it," says Sheila Nevins, head of HBO's documentary division.
Adjusting to life on the outside, Baldwin flashes his learner's permit.
"I am acclimating myself to being among people again," Echols says. "I have been in solitary confinement for 10 years. I am writing again and trying to capture this while it's still new."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times