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Maycomb Sheriff Heck Tate was the first man to take the witness stand in the rape trial of Tom Robinson, the focal point of Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. After Bob Ewell came in person to his office to report that "some nigger'd raped his girl," Sheriff Tate drove to the Ewell house. There he found Mayella Ewell "lying on the floor" and "pretty well beat up."
"I asked her who hurt her, and she said it was Tom Robinson."
After a short round of questions from the prosecutor, Mr. Gilmer, it was Atticus's turn.
After determining that Sheriff Tate had not called a doctor, Atticus asked which eye had been blackened.
"... It was her right eye, Mr. Finch. I remember now. She was bunged up on that side of her face."
Atticus also determined from the sheriff that there were other bruises on her arms and "all around" her neck. Then Atticus took a seat, and Judge Taylor dismissed Sheriff Tate from the stand.
Sheriff Tate's testimony would be the shortest of the four main characters who testified. His statement about the bruises on the right side of Mayella's face would later prove to be a key to Atticus's defense; Tom, whose left arm was crippled, could hardly have caused them. Additionally, it would have taken two strong hands to have caused the bruises "all around" Mayella's throat.
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