Identical twins Kayla and Kellie Bingham have been accused by the school of cheating on a medical exam.
They had given up on their dreams of becoming a doctor because the prosecution ruined their reputation.
The twins won a lawsuit after a psychologist said their special “entanglement” made them innocent.
In the fall of 2016, identical twins Kayla and Kellie Bingham, studying at the Medical University of South Carolina, walked into their favorite hangout spot in the college town of Charleston.
They saw that a large number of their fellow students were there. Kayla told Insider that students looked at each other and nudged each other.
“It happened everywhere we went,” Kayla said. “People gossiped about us and we received a cold reception.”
“It got to the point where we had to order delivery because we couldn’t go to restaurants anymore,” he added.
The sisters had been ostracized because music he had labeled them “cheaters”. The medical school had claimed that their similar scores on a major exam were more than just coincidence.
“It was devastating,” Kellie said of the allegations. “We both knew we hadn’t done anything wrong.”
A jury ruled that the medical school had defamed the identical twins
The twins have finally cleared their names after six years of torment. They won their defamation case against MUSC last month. The jury awarded them damages totaling $1.5 million.
The sisters’ ordeal began after they took the test in May 2016. Kellie said the twins were assigned seats at the same table. “We were about four or five feet apart,” she said. They couldn’t see each other, she said, because her monitors blocked her view.
Two weeks later, the faculty formally accused them of cheating.
“My mind was racing,” Kayla said of having to appear before the honor board. “I was crying and in disbelief that this was happening to us.”
She continued, “there’s no way to process your emotions when you’re accused of something you didn’t do.” Kellie said that despite the trauma, she thought the school would drop the claims.
Kellie told the council that their responses had been very similar since first grade. She said that she had graded within a fraction of a point in high school. Her SAT scores had been identical. They got the same score when they took the tests on different days and in different places.
The council told the sisters that a teacher raised the alarm after monitoring the results of the entire class remotely. He suspected that the twins had been collaborating.
He had told a proctor to “watch them more” while the exam continued. The supervisor reported that she had noticed the Binghams repeatedly nodding as if they were exchanging signals. She said that one had pushed her chair back. She said that one had “turned over” a piece of paper on the table so that the other could see it.
The students became targets of gossip and recriminations on campus and in the city.
The women, who were 24 at the time, protested their innocence. “We were nodding our heads at a question on our own computer screens,” Kayla said. “There was no signage,” she said, adding that they “never looked at each other.”
She told Insider that people had often commented on their “incredibly similar” mannerisms.
“I never anticipated that nodding at your computer screen could be used against you, and confirmation bias occurs when you display regular, familiar behaviors on a test,” Kayla said.
Kayla told the council that the cheating claim was “ridiculous.” She told Insider that the sisters did not have “twin telepathy” or “secret language.” She added: “We don’t feel each other’s pain or anything like that.”
But the twins were found guilty. They appealed to the dean and were cleared of the charge after an excruciating week long wait. “We thought she was gone,” Kellie said, noting that they had “worked so hard” and “wanted to get back” to their studies.
But the damage was done and word got out. “These whispers and rumors went all over campus about how we had been academically dishonest,” Kellie said. There was gossip and recriminations. Peers addressed them on social media and discussed them on community blogs. Media reported on the case in states as far away as California.
The sisters told Insider that their peers universally avoided them. They said people refused to talk to them, including a friend they had known for a decade. They said they were “uninvited” from two weddings. A bride-to-be sent them an email that seemed “generic.” Another, who had sent them a save-the-date card, never followed up.
“We were two of the most social people on campus, we knew everyone in our medical school class as well as other classes,” Kayla said.
“We didn’t sleep, we lost weight, we gained weight, we lost weight,” Kayla said.
They withdrew from MUSC in September 2016. Kayla said they left, “at the dean’s recommendation, because of how hostile it had become.”
Kellie said she was devastated when they were forced to give up their medical career. “She honestly killed me,” she added Kellie. “I dreamed of being a doctor since I was little; Kayla and I wanted to help people.”
They filed their lawsuit in 2017.
“We knew the truth,” Kayla said. “We weren’t going to turn around and let our reputation be ruined.”
He continued, “first and foremost was to clear our name.”
“It takes a lifetime to build a reputation,” he said.
The brothers became lawyers, not doctors as they once dreamed.
The sisters became even closer. “We trusted each other,” Kayla said. “We came together with the decision to fight, and we did.”
They decided to give up their medical ambitions and attend law school. They had very similar GPAs when they graduated last year. They work at the same law firm and want to tackle complex defamation lawsuits like yours.
“We didn’t want anyone to have to go through what we’ve been through ever again,” said Kayla, now 31. “We changed our path so that we could at least try and make sure that people don’t have to put up with what we did.”
The case took five years to reach trial in Charleston. The sisters’ attorney presented their education records to the jury. They showed how they had obtained identical or nearly identical scores on tests they had taken in the past.
A professor at his college before law school wrote in his defending. He said in a letter that they had submitted the exact same answers, some correct, some incorrect, for a test he had proctored in 2012. They had been sitting at opposite ends of the classroom, the professor wrote. He said that it would have been impossible for them to cooperate.
nancy segal, a psychologist who specializes in behavioral genetics and the study of twins, testified in court. He said he would only have been “surprised” if the sisters “didn’t finish with the same scores.”
The professor, who founded the Center for Twin Studies at California State University, Fullerton, told the jury about the “very close entanglement” of the twins. She said cheating complaints against the twins are “common” at the academy.
“They are genetically predisposed to behave in the same way,” Segal said. “They have been raised in the same way and are natural partners in the same environment.”
She told Insider that twins, particularly identical twins, are likely to have similar tastes, talents, social preferences and academic achievements.
“Identical twins just have this kind of understanding that goes beyond what we normally think of as a close relationship,” Segal, who wrote books on the subject, he said. He noted that MUSC had not considered “the impact of the corresponding genetic profiles” when they accused the twins of cheating.
Kayla said she held Kellies hand when the verdict came in. “It was the most important moment of our lives,” Kayla said of claiming her. “We have been living with this for six years and they have finally restored everything to us.”
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