- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas’ Supreme Court said Thursday that police officers were wrong to barge into a bank robbery suspect’s hotel room after receiving an anonymous tip, but upheld the man’s conviction because eyewitness evidence was so overwhelming.

Isaac Evans, who was sentenced to a life term as a habitual offender, had wanted the court to reverse his conviction. Justices affirmed his conviction sentence, however, saying that the other testimony implicating him was so strong that a nighttime police raid amounted to a “harmless error.”

Evans was accused of robbing a Simmons Bank branch in Little Rock on Feb. 22, 2013. Evans’ brother-in-law contacted police after seeing photos from surveillance on the TV news and bank tellers identified him in a photo array.

Four days later, officers went to a North Little Rock motel after receiving an anonymous tip that Evans was in Room 123. They noticed the room’s lights and a television were on and, using a key card obtained from the motel office, entered the room after no one answered their knock.

Police seized money, clothing, hair clippers and a fresh identification card showing Evans with a changed appearance. Evans argued that police had no right to enter his room based on an uncorroborated anonymous tip and that jurors shouldn’t have seen the evidence that was taken from there.

The court said that while police had an arrest warrant, they did not have a search warrant and did not know for sure that Evans was the person in the room.

“The police were unable to recall how they obtained a key card to Room 123, or even which of the three officers actually procured it,” the court wrote. “The … tip, standing alone, did not provide sufficient detail for a reasonable belief that the motel room was Evans’ room or that Evans was present.”

Justices did say bank tellers and Evans’ brother-in-law identified Evans through more than two dozen photos from a surveillance tape and that a lower court’s decision to admit evidence from the hotel room was harmless.


Follow Kelly P. Kissel on Twitter at https://twitter.com/kisselAP

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