How Much Did The OJ Simpson Trial Cost Taxpayers?

The OJ Simpson criminal trial, which lasted for over eight months from January to October 1995, cost the taxpayers of Los Angeles County an estimated $9 million at the time. The trial, in which OJ Simpson was tried, and ultimately acquitted, for the double murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman, cost approximately $800,000 per month at its midpoint. By its end, average costs had increased to $1.063 million per month. The final total, as reported by the auditor-controller's office in December 1995 was $9,038,683.

The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson took place in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and the proceedings were televised live on Court TV. For the more than eight months it lasted, viewers tuned in to watch it unfold daily. As has been noted, coverage of the trial, which the media had dubbed the "trial of the century," took place in a time before smartphones and when the internet was only starting out. Consider, Google wouldn't launch for another four years and the site formerly known as Twitter, X, wouldn't send out its first tweet until 12 years after the trial's verdict.

That left television as the only source of up-to-the-minute news on the trial. And to put on this true-crime series for 133 days, the cost to Los Angeles County taxpayers was nearly $68,000 a day.

Breaking down the cost

The OJ Simpson trial began on January 24, 1995, and the jury reached their verdict more than eight months later on October 2, the same day they began their deliberations. Announcement of the verdict would be delayed by a day. On October 3, 1995, OJ Simpson was found not guilty of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, bringing to a close a televised trial that cost taxpayers over $9 million.

A breakdown of the costs, per a report by the Los Angeles County auditor-controller's office, found that the district attorney's office accounted for $4,048,111 of the total. The sheriff's department spent over $3 million ($3,068,040) to jail and transport Simpson to and from the court proceedings at Los Angeles County Superior Court. When the report came out in December 1995, it was noted that the total cost was $147,793 more than had been reported previously on September 30.

Other items in the auditor-controller's expense report included the superior and municipal courts spending $2,098,371 in salaries and overhead, the county coroner spending $99,302 on autopsies and scientific work, and the auditor-controller's office spending $25,612 on accounting. For the jury, which had to be sequestered for 265 days, longer than any other jury in United States history, the expenses added up to $3,041,161.

The cost compared to other trials

Accounting for inflation since October 1995, the $9,038,683 figure for the OJ Simpson trial today would be $17,213,841. On that note, the inflation rate in 1995 was 2.5%, while the current inflation rate, as of March 2024, is 3.5% (three months after Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen declared the U.S. economy had indeed achieved its economic soft landing, per Bloomberg). The 2.5% from 1995 is around the target 2% goal of the Federal Reserve, and was the fourth year in a row where inflation hovered around this 2%-below-3% range. (Read up on the three main causes of inflation.)

But back to the "trial of the century" and how much it cost taxpayers in Los Angeles County. The high-profile trial was one of the biggest stories of the latter part of the 20th century, with the nation tuning in each day for the better part of a year. (Notably, the trial is credited with changing how TV covered news, as well as providing a template for future reality TV). Even before the prosecution's opening statements on January 24, 1995, the cost to the county was $916,140 by September 1994. This was already more than it cost to hold two other famous murder trials in Los Angeles: the 1969 trial of Sirhan Sirhan, $592,806; and the 1970-71 trial of Charles Manson, $768,838 (per figures published by the Tampa Bay Times).

In 1995, these total costs would equal $2,678,243 and $3,168,076, respectively. Compared to the Simpson trial and its over-$9 million figure, the trials cost Los Angeles taxpayers 70.3% and 64.9% less.