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Crack lab case overturned

An appeals court has overturned the drug conviction of a woman who bought crack made by the Broward County Sheriff's Office, clearing the way for others like her to be freed.

Gwen Grissett, 29, of Fort Lauderdale was arrested in 1990 after buying the cocaine rocks from undercover deputies.

In its own crack kitchen, the Broward Sheriff's Office had manufactured the crack from confiscated cocaine powder.

Calling that practice "outrageous," the 4th District Court of Appeal on Wednesday overturned Ms. Grissett's conviction.

"This allows people to go back and have their convictions set aside," said her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Robert Friedman.

Last month the court declared the crack lab illegal, saying the Sheriff's Office was breaking one law to enforce another.

Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro appealed the ruling but shut down the lab and stopped selling the drugs.

Ms. Grissett, like many others arrested in the sting operation, did not object to the crack lab during her trial.

Normally, that would have precluded her from raising the issue on appeal. But the judges said Wednesday that the sheriff's practice was so outrageous it didn't matter whether people objected.

The sheriff's manufacture of crack "constitutes error so fundamental that it may be considered for the first time on appeal," the court wrote.

That opened the door for other people convicted of buying the Sheriff's Office crack to get their convictions overturned, Friedman said.

Navarro declined comment on the ruling, saying only, "I am not a lawyer."