A pair of identical twins accused of cheating at a South Carolina medical school have been awarded a $1.5 million payout – by a jury that agreed the sisters “are genetically predisposed to behave the same way.”
Kayla and Kellie Bingham filed their defamation suit against the Medical University of South Carolina in 2017 — a year after the school claimed they in cahoots during an exam, Insider reported.
The pair was sitting at the same table but “we were about four or five feet apart,” Kellie told the news outlet, explaining that they couldn’t watch each other because their monitors blocked their views.
Two weeks after the test, school officials accused the twins of cheating.
“My mind was racing. I was sobbing and incredulous that this was happening to us,” Kayla said about having to appear before the school honor board.
“There’s no way to process your emotions when you’re accused of something you didn’t do,” she added to Insider.
The twins were informed that a professor who was monitoring their exam remotely suspected they were in cahoots and told a proctor to “keep an extra eye” on them.
The monitor reported that she noticed the students repeatedly nodding their heads as though they were exchanging signals – and said one of them had “flipped” a sheet of paper so the other could see it.
“We were just nodding at a question at our own computer screens. There was no signaling,” Kayla told Insider, adding that they “never looked at each other.”
She told the news outlet that people had frequently noted how “incredibly similar” they acted and that they had no “twin telepathy” and “secret language.”
Kellie told the board that she and her sister had racked up strikingly similar academic marks since first grade and that their college-admission SAT scores were identical.
Despite their pleas, the sisters were found guilty of cheating but were cleared a few days later. But they said their reputations had already been sullied.
“These mutterings and rumors came throughout campus about how we’d been academically dishonest,” Kellie told Insider, adding that damaging comments about them spread across the US.
The sisters decided to pull out of the school later that year “at the recommendation of the dean, because of how hostile it had become,” Kayla said.
They ended up dropping their plans to become doctors and went into law instead.
In 2017, the women filed a defamation lawsuit against the school — which they won last month.
During the trial in Charleston, their lawyer presented their nearly identical academic records to the jury.
A professor also told the panel that the sisters had submitted the exact same answers for an exam he had supervised in which they sat across the room from each other.
And a psychologist who specializes in behavioral genetics and the study of twins testified that she would only have been surprised if the twins had “not ended up with the same scores.”
“We knew the truth. We weren’t going to roll over and let our reputation be ruined,” Kayla said. “You take an entire lifetime to build a reputation.”
Nancy Segal, who founded the Twin Studies Center at California State University, Fullerton and testified at trial, described the “very close intertwining” of twins.
“They are genetically predisposed to behave the same way,” Segal told Insider. “They’ve been raised the same and are natural partners in the same environment.”
She said “identical twins just have this kind of understanding that goes beyond what we typically think of as a close relationship.”
Segal noted that twin students are frequently accused of cheating due to the similarity of their thinking and behavior.
When the verdict was announced, the now 31-year-old sisters held each other’s hands.
“It was the biggest moment of our lives,” Kayla said. “We’ve been living with this for six years and we’ve finally had everything restored to us.”
The two women now work at the same law firm and want to tackle defamation lawsuits like their own, the outlet said.
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