BEHIND THE SCENES STORY: Rodney T. Miller, M.D - Recipient of Special Commendation

Rodney T. Miller, M.D - Recipient of Special Commendation for his Work in New Zealand Double Murder Case

ProPath pathologist Rodney T. Miller, M.D., Director of the ProPath Immunohistochemistry (IHC) Division and an internationally recognized expert in IHC, was awarded a New Zealand Police District Commander’s Commendation at ProPath in Dallas on August 17, 2016, in recognition of his analysis of critical forensic evidence and subsequent expert testimony at trial and retrial in one of the most horrific murder cases in New Zealand’s history.  This marked the first time that this prestigious award was bestowed outside of New Zealand.

(Dr.Miller on the left, receives the award from Detective Senior Sergeant Nigel Hughes of the New Zealand Police.)

On August 25-26, 2000, Dr. Miller was the keynote speaker on IHC at the annual meeting of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia, held in Palmerston North, New Zealand.  Three days later in Palmerston North, 38-year-old Christine Lundy and her 7-year-old daughter Amber were found brutally murdered in their home, bludgeoned about the face and head with a hatchet.  Mark Lundy, the husband and father of the victims, claimed he was out of town during the murder, but was a prime suspect. After the victims were found, police located Mark in Wellington and asked him to return to Palmerston North, where they intercepted him in his car 3 blocks from the murder scene, and with Mark’s permission confiscated the car and its contents as evidence.

One piece of evidence collected from the car by Police was a blue polo shirt that was found to have two tiny smeared stains, resembling smeared mucus.  DNA analysis of the stain demonstrated Christine’s DNA, and a touch preparation slide from one of the shirt stains was examined by a New Zealand pathologist, who thought brain cells might be present, but could not say for sure.  The New Zealand pathologist suggested to the Police that IHC for brain-related markers were needed to establish the material on the shirt as brain tissue.  Detective Sergeant Ross Grantham, the officer in charge of the investigation, contacted multiple forensic laboratories in New Zealand, the United States, and the United Kingdom, but all declined to help.  At that point the New Zealand pathologist (who attended Dr. Miller’s lectures) suggested to Detective Grantham that he contact Dr. Miller, who agreed to help and offered the services of the ProPath IHC lab in support of the investigation.  Detective Grantham brought the shirt to Dallas in February 2001, and subsequent analysis of the stain on the shirt at ProPath showed conclusive evidence that the stain contained brain tissue, in the same area that had Christine’s DNA.  The Defence accepted Dr. Miller’s conclusions that the shirt had brain tissue smeared on it, as they were not successful finding any experts who would testify otherwise.  At trial the Defence alleged that the brain tissue was intentionally planted on the shirt by Police.  This allegation was rejected by the jury, and Dr. Miller’s analysis and testimony at the 7-week trial were critical in obtaining Lundy’s original conviction on March 20, 2002.  He was sentenced to 17 years in prison, and upon his initial appeal he was given 3 more years of prison time, bringing the total sentence to 20 years.

In 2010, Lundy’s Defence team hired four experts (three pathologists and one physiologist), who submitted affidavits to the Privy Council in London in support of another appeal, on the grounds that Dr. Miller’s analysis of the evidence was completely wrong, that he was incompetent, and that he intentionally misled the Jury at the original trial.  The appeal to the Privy Council was successful, and the original conviction was quashed on October 7, 2013.  A retrial was immediately ordered.

In preparation for the re-trial, the evidence on the shirt was re-examined again at ProPath as well as in other laboratories in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and at The Hague in the Netherlands.  Results obtained in these other laboratories supported Dr. Miller’s original conclusions.  Dr. Miller testified and was vigorously cross examined for a total of 13 hours at the pre-trial hearing and the 8-week-long retrial, and Lundy was found guilty for a second time on April 01, 2015.  The four Defence experts who were so critical in quashing the original conviction withdrew their testimony before the retrial, and they did not testify at the pre-trial hearing or the retrial.

(Dr. Miller, on left, and IHC Lead Dustin Kuczaj, on right, receive their awards from the New Zealand Police.)

In appreciation of Dr. Miller’s expertise and 15-year support on the case along with the ProPath lab team’s efforts, he was presented with the District Commander’s Commendation award by Detective Senior Sergeant Nigel Hughes of New Zealand Police.  Detective Senior Sergeant Hughes, who was also the officer in charge of the Lundy murder scene said, “Dr. Miller’s evidence was the vital component in the successful prosecution and conviction of Mark Lundy.” Dr. Miller, who had been working with the New Zealand Police on the Lundy Murder trial since 2001, crafted a Focus article on the pathology procedures used in the case, entitled “Immunohistochemistry in Forensic Pathology.”  The article can be found on the ProPath website at www.propath.com/companies/press-clippings .  A scientific paper authored by Dr. Miller describing the work done during the first trial was also published in a prestigious Forensic Pathology Journal.  [Miller RT, Grantham R, Lockett B et al: Immunohistochemical Analysis of Forensic Evidence from a Double Homicide. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 23 (4): 321-325, 2002.]