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Mr. Gilmer asks Heck Tate to describe the scene that he saw at Bob Ewell’s house the night Ewell called to report Mayella Ewell’s rape. 

Heck Tate is the sheriff in Maycomb.  He testified at the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman named Mayella Ewell.  Mr. Gilmer was the prosecutor, meaning that his job was the convince the jury that Tom Robinson was guilty.  Atticus Finch’s job was to convince them that Robinson was innocent. 

Mr. Gilmer asks Heck Tate to describe who called him. 

Mr. Tate said, “I was fetched by Bob—by Mr. Bob Ewell yonder, one night—”

“What night, sir?”

Mr. Tate said, “It was the night of November twenty-first. … Mr. Ewell came in, very excited he was, and said get out to his house quick, some nigger’d raped his girl.” (Ch. 17) 

He also asks Mr. Tate to describe what he found.  He describes how he found Mayella Ewell lying on the floor beaten up.  When he asked her who hurt her, she said it was Tom Robinson.  The judge, Mr. Taylor, expected Atticus to object to this testimony, but he did not, so Tate continued. 

“—asked her if he beat her like that, she said yes he had. Asked her if he took advantage of her and she said yes he did. So I went down to Robinson’s house and brought him back. She identified him as the one, so I took him in. That’s all there was to it.” (Ch. 17) 

After a witness testifies, the defense attorney can cross-examine the witness.  Atticus asks Sheriff Tate, whom he knows well, if he called for a doctor.  He establishes that no one has called for a doctor.   Atticus also asks him to describe her injuries in detail, including where the injuries were on her face.

Read the study guide:
To Kill a Mockingbird

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