By Kevin Deutsch
The new Chairman of New York State’s DNA Subcommittee is a Guggenheim-winning biostatistician who testified at O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, Bronx Justice News has learned.
Dr. Bruce Weir, 76, a genome expert hailing from New Zealand, is chair of the Department for Biostatistics, director of the Genetic Analysis Center, and director of the Institute of Public Health Genetics at the University of Washington.
He replaces former subcommittee chair Dr. Dwight Adams, who stepped down from his post during the committee’s November meeting. Adams is a former director of the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, who helped lead the state’s implementation of a genetic genealogy testing regime to solve crimes.
The DNA subcommittee is part of New York’s Office of Forensic Services, which administers the state’s DNA Databank and helps set state policy and rules for the gathering and testing of DNA in criminal investigations.
“I think New York State has been a leader in the introduction and adherence to standards in DNA testing,” Weir said at the subcommittee’s Feb. 7 meeting, his first as chairman. “I’m looking forward very much to being part of your deliberations. I think it’s going to be interesting and, I think, fun.”
The subcommittee under Weir’s leadership will likely tackle a host of controversial issues this year.
Last year, the subcommittee agreed to permit qualifying law enforcement agencies to use Rapid DNA—a controversial technology that provides near-instantaneous test results on human genetic samples without the need for scientific supervision. But the regulations that might be placed on such testing have yet to be formulated.
State officials have also told subcommittee members they are close to approving investigative DNA testing by a private company that can identity up to nine degrees of relatives based on a genetic sample—and which uses commercial databases containing the DNA of thousands of Americans—to assist law enforcement.
Parabon is the first private company to seek licensing for investigative genetic genealogy testing in New York, state officials said. If approved by the state, it would face significantly less government scrutiny than public DNA crime labs like those run by medical examiner’s offices and law enforcement agencies, officials have said.
Weir played a controversial role in the 1995 murder trial of former NFL star O.J. Simpson, during which he testified about DNA evidence in the case, including blood found in Simpson’s Ford Bronco and on the infamous black glove.