Justin May (’14) champion in 2013 Zeliff Competition Finals

Photo of 2013 Zeliff Competitors Austen Irrobali ('14) and Justin May ('14)

2013 Zeliff Competitors Austen Irrobali ('14) and Justin May ('14)

Justin May (’14) is the winner of the 2013 Zeliff Competition Finals, sponsored by the Wake Forest Student Trial Bar.

The final argument, State of Hampton v. Taylor White, was held at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6,  in the Worrell Professional Center between Austen Irrobali (’14), who was counsel for the plaintiff, and May, who counsel for the defense.

After a hard-fought battle in front of the Honorable Judge Robert Conrad of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina and the Honorable Judge Ed Wilson of the North Carolina Superior Court that was deemed extremely close,  Wilson told the competitors, “You guys did a fantastic job. We leaned over and said we hadn’t seen anything this good in court in a while. On cross examination, you were both indignant, which is what you should be. I look forward to seeing you guys in court one day.”

Conrad added that each had a theme and came back to it. “I thought you were both very persuasive,” he said. “I thought your understanding of evidentiary issues was very good. I am very impressed by that. This was really good. I would have the sense if you all were in our court it would be a joy to preside over your trial. You both won, which made it very difficult to choose.”

Zeliff co-chairs were Michael Bixby (’14), Ruth Tisdale (’14), and Ebbie Yazdani (’14). “Zeliff was extremely competitive this year,” Bixby said. “We would like to thank all the participants and judges for making this competition possible. We received comments from multiple judges about the competitors exemplary preparation and presentation.”

Final Four contestants included Jesse Hynes  (’14) and Pat Murphy (’13).  Quarterfinalists were Kelsey Baird, Kevin Flanigan, Jason Hornsby and Christopher Salera. Honorable mentions went to Dave Brennan, Perrin Fourney, Malcam Godwin, Jasmine Kelly, DJ McIntee and Kelly Russo.

In this case, Taylor White is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Victor Thames. White is the owner of a statewide construction business, which primarily completes interior construction projects on pre-existing buildings for commercial clients. At the time of Thames’ death, White was attempting to transition his business toward design and construction of commercial buildings and was working to secure approvals from the Quinn County Zoning Board for various construction sites.

Victor Thames was the owner of a regional electronics retailer who had a longstanding friendship with Taylor White that developed during frequent professional dealings. Thames had made White his company’s preferred contractor for all interior construction projects in exchange for discounts on the work.

Lt. Kelly Sprague was the detective assigned to investigate the death of Victor Thames. Sprague surveyed the scene, recovered evidence, reviewed reports, and ultimately arrested Taylor White on suspicion of murder.

Cam Decker is the owner of Wag in Your Step, a professional dog-walking service. Decker was working around the time of the murder and reports having heard what may have been a gunshot and seeing someone dressed in black walking from the direction of Victor Thames’ home with a large bag on their back. Riley Jacobs is a senior at Hampton College who has already secured post-graduation employment with Taylor White’s company. Jacobs was bar-hopping downtown on the night of Victor Thames’ death and reports having seen Taylor White on two separate occasions around the suspected time of death.