WINFIELD – Responsibility.
That word seems to be at the heart of the wrongful death trial against Powerball winner Jack Whittaker that started Wednesday in Putnam Circuit Court.
Attorneys on both sides of the case talked about responsibility in Wednesday's opening arguments.
In arguing that Whittaker ultimately was responsible for the 2004 overdose death of 18-year-old Jesse Tribble at Whittaker's Scott Depot home, attorney Thomas Peyton said Whittaker threw money at late granddaughter Brandi Bragg.
Peyton, who is representing father James Tribble and Jesse's estate, also said Whittaker and didn't supervise Bragg and her friends at the home, which he said essentially was a hub for drug use, users and sales.
"He chose to provide his granddaughter with money, which he knew she was using to buy drugs and to distribute them to her friends," Peyton said.
Whittaker's attorney, meanwhile, said Jesse Tribble is the only person responsible for his death.
"Jesse Tribble died because Jesse Tribble took drugs," James Lamp said in his opening. "It's simple, but it's true."
Jesse Tribble was at Whittaker's home in Rose Hill Acres on Sept. 16, 2004, with Brandi Bragg, who was 17 at the time. They were using drugs, and Tribble passed out. He suffocated as a result of his drug overdose sometime around midnight.
Whittaker, court documents show, was not at the home at the time of Tribble's death. He was in Virginia.
In his opening, Peyton said Whittaker knew Bragg had a drug problem. Bragg died less than two months after Tribble's death.
"We are here today, suing Mr. Whittaker, because he chose to provide his granddaughter money which he knew she was using to buy drugs for her and her friends," Peyton said. "He chose to keep doing that. He chose to provide a home for her and her friends without any supervision, creating a situation that is dangerous.
"He allowed Brandi Bragg to get out of control, which she did. The death of Jesse Tribble in that home was from drugs more likely than not bought by Brandi Bragg."
To prevent Tribble's death, Peyton argued Whittaker could have properly supervised Bragg and his home and not provided Bragg with money. Testimony showed Whittaker gave Bragg an allowance of $300 per day.
Bragg's estate also was sued because, as Peyton said, she chose to leave Tribble alone in the home that night.
"If 911 had been called, he would've lived," Peyton argued.
Lamp said Whittaker and Bragg are not responsible for the actions of Tribble, who was two months shy of turning 19.
"He took drugs for a long time," Lamp said of Tribble. "He was a chronic drug user."
He said Tribble began using marijuana in sixth grade, and his problem only worsened after that.
"I didn't come here to try this case predicated on the notion that Jack Whittaker was parent of the year," he said.
The trial is expected to continue into next week.
James Tribble seeks compensation for the cost of his son's funeral, lost future income and other damages. Peyton said the lost future income would be between $1.2 and $2 million, according to Peyton.