Identical twins win $1.5m payout after being wrongly accused of cheating

Sisters fought for six years to clear names

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Saturday 03 December 2022 18:39 GMT
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Identical twins Kayla and Kellie Bingham have been awarded a $1.5m payout after clearing their names six years after being accused of cheating in college tests.

The sisters were attending the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in 2016 when the accusations were first made.

Now, in a defamation case brought against MUSC, a jury decided in favour of the Binghams and awarded the damages as compensation for the torment they faced.

The saga began in May 2016 when the twins, daughters of former South Carolina Republican state Representative Kenny Bingham, were assigned seats at the same table during an exam, Kellie told Insider.

She explained that while they were only four or five feet apart, they couldn’t see each other because of their computer monitors.

Two weeks after the exam, they were formally accused of cheating by MUSC faculty.

Kayla recalls having to appear before the school’s honour board, saying that her “mind was racing” and she “was sobbing and incredulous that this was happening to us”.

​​She added: “There’s no way to process your emotions when you’re accused of something you didn’t do.”

Kellie believed the school would withdraw the claim as she explained to the board that their grades had been extremely similar since they began their education as children, and then throughout high school.

The twins achieved the same SAT scores and had taken the tests on different days in different locations.

They learned a professor had raised concerns while remotely monitoring the results of the whole class, which led him to suspect they had collaborated.

The proctor of the exam was told to keep an eye on them. She claimed she noticed that the twins repeatedly nodded their heads as if they were signalling each other and one had “flipped” 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 said, telling Insider that they had often been told they had “incredibly similar” mannerisms and that she never thought it could be used against them.

She added that they have no “twin telepathy” or “secret language”, and do not “feel each others’ pain or anything like that”.

“There was no signaling,” she said, adding that they “never looked at each other”.

Kayla told the honour board that the cheating claim was “ridiculous”.

Nevertheless, the twins were found guilty and were forced to appeal to the dean, Raymond DuBois. After a torturous week-long wait they were cleared.

However, the damage was done. Word had leaked out and the sisters became social pariahs as rumours spread across the campus that they had been “academically dishonest”.

The gossip and recriminations that circulated online and in the media saw them shunned by friends and peers and disinvited to two weddings.

In September 2016 the twins withdrew from MUSC “at the recommendation of the dean, because of how hostile it had become” and they were forced to abandon their dreams of going into medicine.

They filed a lawsuit against the school in 2017 to clear their names and regain their reputations. The fight drew them closer together.

When the case finally came to trial, the jury was shown their identical or near identical exam results from throughout their educational records.

A college professor said in a letter that in a 2012 exam they had submitted the same answers, both correct and incorrect while sitting at opposite ends of a classroom making it impossible to collaborate in any way.

Another witness, Professor Nancy Segal, a psychologist specialising in behavioral genetics and the study of twins at California State University, testified that she would have been surprised if Kayla and Kellie has not attained the same scores. She also noted that cheating complaints against twins are “common” in academia.

“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 described the jury finding in their favour as “the biggest moment of our lives” and that the vindication saw “everything restored to us”.

Giving up on medicine saw the sisters enter law school, and graduation in 2021 saw them attain very similar grades.

They now work at the same law firm and want to tackle defamation cases like their own.

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