11 Mar 2015

Focus on contamination at Lundy trial

12:02 am on 11 March 2015

An American pathologist has vehemently rejected the possibility murder accused Mark Lundy's shirt was contaminated with brain matter in his lab.

Mark Lundy touching wood at the start of Monday week four.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Rodney Miller is giving evidence at the trial of Mr Lundy, 56, who is accused of murdering his 38-year-old wife, Christine, and seven-year-old daughter, Amber.

Their bodies were found in their Palmerston North home on 30 August 2000. The Crown claims Mr Lundy killed his wife for her insurance money and Amber because she saw what he was doing to her mother.

United States pathologist Rodney Miller director of immunohistochemistry at ProPath Laboratory in Dallas, Texas.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Dr Miller, who is Director of Immunohistochemistry at ProPath Laboratory in Dallas, Texas, in 2001 and 2014 tested smears on a polo shirt found in Mr Lundy's car all tested "exactly as we would expect for brain tissue".

Defence lawyer David Hislop, QC, repeatedly questioned Dr Miller on steps taken to ensure the samples were not contaminated, including whether he cleaned his work bench between dealing with a shirt with chicken brain on it and doing the Lundy shirt tests.

"That benchtop was clean. There is no possibility ... of a contaminate on that surface. Zero possibility," Dr Miller said.

Mr Hislop replied that Dr Miller had not taken responsibilty for cleaning down the bench and instead left it to somebody else, prompting Dr Miller to reply: "I do not do cleaning duties in my office."

Mr Hislop then asked what Inspector Ross Grantham, who led the first investigation into the deaths and took the tissue to Dr Miller for testing in 2001, was wearing in his lab.

He said the police officer was wearing gloves and, while he could not recall whether he was wearing a lab coat, he did not believe one was necessary as there was nothing on his shirt to contaminate the sample.

Mr Hislop asked how he would know that, prompting a strong response from Dr Miller.

"Oh please. You don't get brain tissue on your shirt from eating a sandwich. I know for a fact that he would not have had brain tissue on his shirt," he said.

"That is just ludicrous."

Mr Hislop also asked whether other specimens were used in the tissue processor used on the samples, and how often solution was changed, prompting Dr Miller to say that he had spent 30 years looking at slides and there was "no way there was a tissue contaminent. No way".

"I don't know how much clearer I can be. The tissue was mashed into the shirt fibres.

"What I saw was brain tissue and nothing else".

Mr Hislop questioned Dr Miller about an email in which he said a clinical chemist who reviewed some of his work was "blowing smoke out his arse".

Dr Miller responded that he made the comment in a confidential email to the Crown the night before a pre-trial hearing for Mr Lundy's first trial; he had worked a full day and was then sent a 400-page document by Mr Lundy's defence team asking him to review it by the next day.

"I was frankly upset that the Crown did not object to that," Dr Miller said.

He had done the work of a diagnostic pathologist and it made no sense to have a clinical chemist pass judgement on it, he said.

Mr Lundy's retrial, before Justice Simon France and a jury of seven men and five women, is in its fifth week and is expected to go for at least eight.

* Clarification - For the avoidance of doubt, please note that Radio New Zealand reporter Sharon Lundy is no relation to Mark Lundy.