Assessing Tim Holland As a Witness

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"Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?" Ingham County Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield asked in court Tuesday.

"Yes, ma'am," Tim Holland responded.

This from the man who pled for help to find his adopted son Ricky more than a year ago.

"All I have is hope and that's all I can hang on to," Holland told News 10 in July 2005.

Now, Tim Holland is the chief witness for the prosecution against his wife Lisa. His credibility could come into question at trial, according to a former Ingham County prosecuting attorney.

"That whole pre-discovery process left a really bad taste in everybody's mouth about how a mother and father could do such a thing to the public," Don Martin said.

In addition to whatever baggage Tim Holland brings into court with him, Martin says the defense could make its own attack on the reliability of his account.

"Why did he cut a deal?" Martin asked, putting himself in the mindset of the defense. "To save his skin, to get a lighter sentence, to better position him in this thing. All the motivations to tell something that's not true will be raised."

Still, Martin says prosecutors must believe strongly in Tim Holland's recounting of the events leading to Ricky's death, and that Tim will repeat that account at trial.

Former defense attorney Tonya Krause-Phelan calls the deal "crucial for the prosecutor to have one of the defendants testify against the other," particularly in the case when the defendants are believed to be the only witnesses to the central crime.

Krause-Phelan, now an assistant professor at Cooley Lay School, says Lisa Holland's attorneys will have to focus on challenging Tim's credibility or selling an alternate theory in the case.

If not, Martin says, "You may see her and her lawyers stepping up to the plate and possibly considering a plea offer, also."

It’s a move that would end Lisa's trial before it begins.