Criminality, as such, is established by legal proceedings. Trial accounts were ordered by the state or municipality as a public record or published by entrepreneurs who appreciated the commercial value of the public's interest in a spectacular legal case; they show how legal guilt is described and proved. They also offer insight into a community's norms and expectations in the witnesses' testimony, the attorney's speeches, or the publisher's prefaces.
Rebecca Hodges, who had previously shot her former employer, Samuel Birch, was convicted of setting fire to three of his hayricks in the middle of the night. The evidence produced included witnesses who reported that Hodges had told them she was going to set fire to Birch's house, and expert testimony on the similarity between pieces of cloth found at the scene of the crime and those found in Hodges' possession at the time of her arrest. Hodges was executed for arson.