Kayla and Kellie Bingham identical twins accused of cheating medical exam at a South Carolina medical school, win $1.5m lawsuit in defamation damages.
A question of genetic predisposition? A pair of identical twins have been awarded $1.5million in damages by a South Carolina college after it wrongly accused them of cheating in a medical exam through signaling, with a court ruling their answers were identical because their minds were connected.
Kayla and Kellie Bingham, 30, were initially enrolled at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in 2016 to fulfill their dreams of one day becoming doctors.
Now, six years later, after suing the medical school for defamation, the two sisters were compensated for having their reputations damaged after a jury ruled in their favor.
It all began when the siblings, who were 24 at the time, were assigned the same table to during a medical exam, according to Kellie.
She told Insider that it was virtually impossible for her and Kayla to see each other’s computer screens despite the fact that there was only a distance of four-or-five feet between them.
Formally accused of cheating
It also wasn’t the first time that the daughters of South Carolina Republican state Representative Kenny Bingham had tested together and scored similarly.
The twins had received the same SAT scores despite testing on different days and locations and were also graded within a fraction of a point of one another in high school. Both of them had been registering similar answers to test questions since the first grade.
That didn’t matter to MUSC faculty, however, as Kayla and Kellie were summoned two weeks after taking the medical exam to be informed that they were formally accused of cheating by the college.
‘My mind was racing,’ Kayla told Insider, recalling the way she felt when she first addressed the medical school’s honor board. ‘I was sobbing and incredulous that this was happening to us.’
‘There’s no way to process your emotions when you’re accused of something you didn’t do,’ she added.
Kellie had thought MUSC would’ve removed its cheating accusations after she had informed the school’s board of her and her sister’s similar testing patterns in the past.
That wasn’t to be the case. Furthermore, both former medical students had found out that a professor had ‘raised the alarm after monitoring the results of the whole class remotely,’ Insider reported, which led him to think that both sisters had been cooperating for answers.
The proctor of the exam was then asked to attentively watch the twins and had noticed that both were constantly nodding their heads as if they were sending signals to one another. She also saw one of the two women ‘flipping’ a sheet of paper on the table ‘so the other could see it.’
‘We were just nodding at a question at our own computer screens,’ Kayla told Insider, adding that her and Kallie had ‘incredibly similar’ sets of manners and didn’t think it’d be potentially held against them one day.
Describing the cheating claims as ‘ridiculous’ to MUSC’s honor board, Kayla insisted that she and Kallie had no ‘twin telepathy’ or ‘secret language.’
‘We don’t feel each others’ pain or anything like that,’ she further said, adding that ‘there was no signaling’ or any questionable looks between her and her sister.
Despite their defense, the twins were not able to prove their innocence and appealed to the college’s dean, Raymond DuBois, who cleared them of any wrongdoing a week later.
Nonetheless, the two sisters’ credibility and reputation had already been damaged by then. They became unpopular on campus and had been labelled ‘academically dishonest’ by their peers.
How twins are predisposed to think and act the same way
Their names also ran in local and state media outlets, which prompted them to be isolated from friends and to be ‘disinvited’ to two weddings, Insider reported.
‘We didn’t sleep, we lost weight, gained weight, lost weight,’ Kayla told Insider.
By September 2016, Kallie and Kayla had left MUSC ‘at the recommendation of the dean, because of how hostile it had become’ before filing a lawsuit against the college in 2017.
At trial, the jury had been shown evidence that both former medical school students had scored identically on test, exams and quizzes throughout their childhoods.
A professor, who taught both siblings in college before their enrolments in medical school, had also written to the twins’ defense. He said in a letter that they had both submitted the exact same answers – right or wrong – on an exam that he oversaw in 2012, despite sitting on opposite ends of the classroom.
Professor Nancy Segal, a psychologist and behavior geneticist, specializing in the study of twins at California State University, Fullerton, also testified in court. She claimed that she would’ve been stunned if Kayla and Kellie had not reached the same conclusion that consistently followed them through the time both spent in school: scoring similarly on an exam.
She also said that cheating complaints filed against twins are ‘common’ in higher education.
‘They are genetically predisposed to behave the same way,’ Professor Segal said. ‘They’ve been raised the same and are natural partners in the same environment.’
Kayla recalled the moment the jury had read its findings as ‘the biggest moment of our lives’ and that finally being proven innocent saw ‘everything restored to us’.
Since dropping out of medical school, both sisters have moved on to become lawyers and scored similarly on the LSAT before eventually graduating in 2021.
They’re now co-workers at the same law firm, where they take on defamation cases similar to the one that they first experienced six years ago.