Gillian Flynn
September 07, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s riveting, shocking, and painful to watch. And it has one hell of a pedigree. Sin City Law — Sundance Channel’s eight-part docuseries covering murder trials in Las Vegas — comes from documentarians Denis Poncet and Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, Oscar winners for 2001’s Murder on a Sunday Morning and the team behind the brilliant 2005 mystery The Staircase (which also aired on Sundance). Here they follow four cases that range from the murder trial of De Rac Hanley to the horrifying case of siblings Monique and Beau Maestas. The Maestas were accused of brutally stabbing the two young daughters of drug dealers they believed cheated them. One girl died, the other is now paralyzed. Beau confessed; Monique claimed she was present but not involved. The filmmakers follow the trial of Monique, just 16 when the attacks happened: We see her creepily grinning with her brother as the two sit side by side in matching prison jumpsuits. We watch her docilely accept the good-girl outfit she’s to wear at trial. We see her staring blank-faced as her defense attorney breaks bad news and worse news. We get to know her loyal older sister, and hear stories of a nightmarish childhood. We even go to church with Monique’s warm, outgoing attorney, as she tries to keep it together during the wrenching trial. Basically, the filmmakers pull off the impossible: They make you worry about a girl who you’d never have thought deserved your concern.

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