What Are The Main Points In Heck Tate's Evidence

In To Kill a Mockingbird, what are the main points in Heck Tate's evidence, and what does Atticus show in his cross examination of Sheriff Tate?

The main points Sheriff Tate's testimony makes in To Kill a Mockingbird are that no one called a doctor for Mayella Ewell and that the bruises on her face indicate being hit by someone who was left-handed. These two facts arise suspicion, as Tom Robinson cannot use his left arm, but Mayella's father is left- handed.

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In To Kill a Mockingbird, the main points in Sheriff Heck Tate's testimony in Tom Robinson’s trial are that Mayella Ewell was badly beaten and claimed that it was Tom who beat and raped. When he was called to the Ewell house, he:

“Found her lying on the floor in the middle of the front room, one on the right as you go in. She was pretty well beat up...I asked her who hurt her and she said it was Tom Robinson—”

Heck says that he then “went down to Robinson’s house and brought him back” so that Mayella could identify Tom as the man who raped and beat her. Heck then arrested Tom.

When Atticus cross-examines Heck, he asks whether the sheriff called a doctor after seeing Mayella. The answer is no. Atticus then asks the logical question, which is why did no one call a doctor if Mayella had been raped and beaten?

Mr. Tate replies that calling a doctor was not necessary because it was obvious that Mayella was “mighty banged up. Something sho‘ happened, it was obvious.” Atticus continues to drive home that no one called a doctor, asking Tate this question three times until finally the judge tells Atticus to move on.

Atticus asks Mr. Tate to describe Mayella’s injuries. Mayella “was beaten around the head” and had bruises on her arms and had the beginning of a black eye. Atticus wants to know which eye. Uncertain at first, Heck says it was her right eye. This is important because it implies that she was struck by a left-handed person. When her father, Bob Ewell, takes the stand, the judge says:

“You’re left-handed, Mr. Ewell,” said Judge Taylor. Mr. Ewell turned angrily to the judge and said he didn’t see what his being left-handed had to do with it, that he was a Christ-fearing man and Atticus Finch was taking advantage of him. Tricking lawyers like Atticus Finch took advantage of him all the time with their tricking ways.”

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Sheriff Heck Tate's evidence contradicts later testimony given by the Ewells.

When the solicitor Mr. Gilmer questions Sheriff Tate, he asks basic questions about what has happened.  Sheriff Tate testifies that as he was leaving his office, he was accosted by an "excited" Bob Ewell who wanted him to hurry to his house because "some n****r'd raped his girl." When he arrived, the sheriff testifies, he found Mayella "pretty well beat up," and he lifted her to her feet. After Mayella washed her face, the sheriff asked her who had hurt her, and she told him that it was Tom Robinson. She also told Sheriff Tate that Robinson "took advantage" of her. Mr. Gilmer says a mere "thank you," and he sits down.

As Atticus begins his cross-examination, he asks the sheriff if he called a doctor. Mr. Tate says, "No sir," and Atticus asks, "Why not?" Atticus repeats his question twice for effect. Then, Atticus asks for specific details about Mayella's injuries. Sheriff Tate describes the bruises that were on Mayella; he adds that the girl had a black eye.

"Which eye?"
"Her left."
"Wait a minute, Sheriff,"said Atticus. "Was it her left facing you or her left looking the same way you were?"
Mr. Tate said, "Oh yes, that'd make it her right. It was her right eye, Mr. Finch. I remember now, she was bunged up on that side of her face...."

At this point, Sheriff Tate realizes why Atticus asks him about which side of Mayella's face is blackened. He turns to look at Tom Robinson, who raises his head.

"Sheriff, please repeat what you said."
"It was her right eye, I said."

Atticus corrects him, saying "No." He walks over to the court stenographer and has Tate's exact words repeated:  "Mr. Finch, I remember now she was bunged up on that side of her face." Atticus then asks Tate to specify again which side of Mayella's face that was. So, the sheriff reiterates, "The right side, Mr. Finch." The sheriff also adds that Mayella's throat and arms were severely bruised, as well.  

By questioning Sheriff Tate in such a detailed manner, Atticus illustrates the impossibility of Tom Robinson's having been able to inflict the injuries on Mayella Ewell. That Mayella's right eye is blackened suggests that her attacker was left-handed, and Tom's left arm and hand are completely useless. Also, the throat bruises on each side of Mayella's neck appear to have been made by someone who had the use of both hands.

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Heck Tate testifies first that Mayella was not examined by a doctor. He then testifies that she had been beaten mostly around her head and that "she had a black eye comin'." Atticus' questions lead Heck to realize that it was Mayella's right eye that had been injured and that most of the injuries to her head occurred on the right side. This is enormously significant because Heck's testimony establishes that Mayella's injuries would have been inflicted by a left-handed person.

Atticus understands the importance of Heck's testimony. When Bob Ewell testifies after Heck Tate, Atticus establishes clearly that Ewell is left-handed. Atticus later establishes that Tom Robinson's left arm is crippled, making his left hand useless. Because of Heck's testimony, it becomes very clear that Bob Ewell most likely attacked Mayella, and that Tom Robinson could not have inflicted the injuries to her head and right eye.

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