GA v. Austin Ford: Best Friend Murder Retrial

Posted at 5:32 PM, August 11, 2023 and last updated 5:16 PM, August 15, 2023

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. (Court TV) – A judge declared a second mistrial for a Georgia man charged with murder in his best friend’s death after a jury was unable to reach a verdict.

In both Ford’s first trial in April and the second in August, 21-year-old Austin Ford was facing a life sentence for the 2021 shooting death of 18-year-old Tori Lang, but a deadlocked jury was unable to come to a decision on whether Ford committed the crime or if Lang died by suicide.

On Aug. 16, attorneys in the case will meet to determine whether Ford will be sentenced on the convictions from the first trial or if prosecutors will seek a third trial.

Photo of Tori Lang

Tori Lang, 18, was found dead underneath a tree in a Gwinnett County park. (Gwinnett County Police Department)

At Ford’s first trial, the jury heard from investigators who tracked Ford’s conflicting accounts between Lang’s death and Ford’s arrest in June 2022.

The retrial featured additional witnesses for the prosecution, which worked to overcome testimony from the medical examiner that the victim’s death could not definitively be ruled a homicide.

READ MORE: GA v. Austin Ford (April 2023) Trial Updates

Ford initially told investigators in 2021 that he did not go to the park with Lang the night she showed up at his house, begging for him to take her life.

Months later, in March 2022, Ford changed his story after he was confronted with cell phone and email records, placing him at the park the night Lang died.

Ford admitted to riding to the park with Lang for fear of what she might do to herself.  At the park, he said he wrestled the gun from her and placed it on the ground. As he tried to hug Lang, Ford said she grabbed the gun and shot herself, falling to the ground.

WATCH: Jury Hears Phone Call Between Detective and Austin Ford

After the shooting, Ford said he panicked, grabbed the gun, and fled in Lang’s car as she instructed him to do on their ride to the park. The Nissan Versa was found two miles away in a nature preserve, burnt beyond recognition. Ford said he left the car there, but did not torch it and had no idea what happened to it. He was charged with two counts of theft for allegedly removing it from the scene.

Austin Ford in court.

Austin Ford was in court on April 27, 2023 at his murder trial. (Court TV)

Ford’s defense learned heavily into the unknowns to raise reasonable doubt and support Ford’s claim that he didn’t want his friend to die.

While admitting to the mysterious circumstances of Lang’s death, prosecutor Norris Lewis said the evidence was clear that Ford was at the park with Lang and had a hand in her death.

Court TV’s Emanuella Grinberg, Brian Primm, Emily Kean and Beth Hemphill contributed to this story.


DAY 4 – 8/11/23

  • Jurors returned for a second day of deliberations and viewed a view of Austin Ford being interviewed by police.
  • Jurors asked for the demonstrative weapon to be sent back to the jury room, and the court responded by sending back all the demonstrative exhibits.
  • The jurors returned and said they were deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict. The judge issued an Allen charge, instructing the jury to do their best to reach a verdict, over the defense’s objections.
  • The jury returned after further deliberation and said it was unable to reach a verdict.
  • The judge called a mistrial.
  • Attorneys in the case will meet on Wednesday morning to determine Ford will be sentenced for the convictions from the first trial or whether prosecutors will move forward with a third trial.
    • Lawrence Lewis, Ford’s attorney, said that he will file a motion on Monday for bond.
    • Lewis said that under laws guaranteeing defendants a speedy trial, prosecutors would need to try the case by Sept. 2. The prosecution could delay until Dec. 1 under a law of extension.

DAY 3 – 8/10/23

DAY 2 – 8/9/23

  • Dr. Carol Terry, the medical examiner, continued testifying.
  • Lead investigators took the stand and said that Tori had suicidal thoughts, referencing interviews with Tori’s mother.
  • The jury was shown a police interview with Ford and listened to an hour-long phone call between Ford and a detective.
  • Ford’s mother caused a disruption in the courtroom when she was caught taking a photo of the proceedings. A hearing is scheduled on Thursday morning to address the issue.

DAY 1 – 8/8/23

  • Twelve witnesses took the stand on the first day of Ford’s retrial, while ten testified in the first.
    • Two new witnesses testified about shell casings.
  • The prosecutor’s opening statement highlighted Austin Ford’s lies to the police and to Tori’s family after she was found dead in Yellow River Park on July 28, 2021.
  • The defense asked the jurors not to be moved by their emotions but to look at the key facts of the case that they say point to Tori Lang committing suicide.
  • Dr. Carol Terry, the medical examiner, described in detail how she believed Tori was lying down when she was shot.
    • Terry said that she did not believe Tori could have shot herself.
    • Evidence at the crime scene confirms someone was at the scene with Tori.
    • The gun was gone, and Austin Ford was convicted of taking the gun at his first trial.
    • Blood transfer on Tori’s leg could not have been placed by her after she was shot, because she would have died within two seconds of the injury.