Charleston, SC

Identical twins win $1.5 million in damages after being accused of cheating on a medical exam

Margaret Minnicks
Identical twins Kayla and Kellie BinghamPhoto

Identical twins Kayla and Kellie Bingham were wrongly accused of cheating on a medical exam in 2016 while studying at the Medical University of Southern Carolina in Charleston. The medical school claimed that the similar scores they received on an important exam must have been because they cheated.

The twins' ordeal

The sisters' ordeal began after they took their medical exam in May 2016. Kellie said they were assigned seats at the same table about four or five feet apart. They couldn't see each other because their monitors blocked their views. Two weeks later, they had to appear before the honor board because the faculty formally accused them of cheating. The twins were labeled as "cheats." They were ostracized by fellow students. In the end, their reputations were ruined at the school and in their community.

Kellie's explanation

Kellie explained to the council that their answers had been highly similar since first grade. She said they had graded within a fraction of a point of one another during high school. Their SAT scores had been identical. They'd got the same score when they took tests on different days and in different locations.

The council told the sisters that a professor suspected they had been collaborating. He told a proctor to "keep an extra eye" on them during the examination. The proctor reported that she had noticed that the Binghams repeatedly nodded their heads as if they were exchanging signals. She said that one had pushed back her chair. She added that one had "flipped" a sheet of paper on the table.

The women, who were 24 at the time, protested their innocence. Kayla said:

"We were just nodding at a question at our own computer screens. There was no signaling, and we never looked at each other." 

Found guilty of cheating

The twins were found guilty after all their pleading and explanations. There were mutterings, gossiping, and rumors all over the campus about them being academically dishonest. They were targeted on social media and discussed on community blogs. Media outlets reported on the case in states as far away as California.

They received so much hostility at MUSC that they withdrew at the recommendation of the dean and for their own health. They didn't sleep, lost weight, gained weight, and lost weight again, according to Kayla. Their lives were falling apart because of a very big mistake.

The twins' lawsuit

Even though they had given up their dream of becoming doctors, Kayla and Kellie filed a lawsuit in 2017 to clear their names. It took five years before their case went to trial. During the trial, the sisters' lawyer presented their records of education to the jury. The records showed how they had obtained identical or near-identical scores in other exams they had taken in the past.

A professor at their college before medical school gave a statement that they had submitted exact right and wrong answers on an exam he had supervised in 2012. He said they were sitting at opposite ends of the classroom, and it would have been impossible for them to collaborate.

Nancy Segal, a psychologist who specializes in behavioral genetics and the study of twins, said that she would only have been "surprised" if the sisters had "not ended up with the same scores." She told the jury about the "very close intertwining" of twins. She said that cheating complaints against twins are "common" in academia.

Segal explained:

"They are genetically predisposed to behave the same way. They've been raised the same and are natural partners in the same environment."

She told Insider that twins, and particularly identical twins, are likely to have similar tastes, talents, social preferences, and academic achievements. She concluded that the school hadn't considered the impact of the corresponding genetic profiles when the twins were accused of cheating. 

The outcome of the trial

It took the twins six years of torture for them to clear their names. They won their lawsuit after Segel said their special "intertwining" made them innocent. Kayla and Kellie won $1.5 million in damages after a jury decided they hadn't cheated because their minds were connected. The accusation ruined their reputation for becoming doctors. Therefore, they decided to become lawyers.

The 31-year-old twins graduated from law school last year with similar GPAs. They are now lawyers and work at the same law firm.

Kayla said:

"We did not want anyone to have to go through what we had been through, ever again. We switched paths so that we could at least try and ensure that people don't have to endure what we did."

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I love pop culture, movies, television, and entertainment. I keep up to date on the latest movies and television shows. I like sharing news about them. I also like sharing information about different foods and their health benefits. I have been a high school teacher and a college professor for over 50 years and an online writer for over 30 years. I have three degrees: BA in English and Literature, MA in Christian Education, and MDiv in Theology. Get to know me through my writing.

Richmond, VA

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