The neighborhood watch volunteer, who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in a racially charged encounter in central Florida, was cleared of all charges tonight.

The jury of six women delivered the verdict following 16 hours of deliberations – including 12 hours today.

The case became a lightning rod of racial politics as the country debated whether Zimmerman’s claim – that he feared for his life – justified his killing of unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was walking home from the store.

George Zimmerman not guilty

In a controversial decision, Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson allowed the jury to consider convicting Zimmerman on a manslaughter charge, which would require a lesser burden of proof and carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

Prosecutors tried to paint Zimmerman as a lying, violent man, eager to play at being a police officer, one who unfairly profiled an innocent youth.

To get a conviction on second-degree murder charges prosecutors had to show Zimmerman acted with ill will, spite, or hatred.

Defense lawyers said prosecutors hadn’t proved their case, and that Zimmerman was justified under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws to use deadly force in saving his own life.

Zimmerman’s attorneys portrayed Martin, 17, as a pot-smoking troublemaker, who liked to fight and had been suspended from school for skipping classes.

To bolster their claim, they released pictures of guns and drugs they said Martin kept on his cell phone.

The trial included grisly images of Martin’s fatal wounds and testy exchanges between Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, the prosecution’s star witness, and defense lawyer Don West.

Jeantel was talking to Martin on his cell just as the confrontation with Zimmerman began.

While Zimmerman had been slammed for assuming the black teen was a criminal, Jeantel testified that Martin referred to Zimmerman, whom Martin did not know, as a “creepy-ass cracker.”

Jeantel, who stunned the court by testifying that she couldn’t read cursive writing, said Martin’s last words were “Get off! Get off!” before the phone went dead.

West challenged Jeantel, suggesting she didn’t call police when Martin’s phone cut off because she thought he provoked the fight.

“That’s why you didn’t do anything — because Trayvon Martin started the fight and you knew that,” West said.

“No, sir!” Jeantel shot back from the witness stand. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

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JA-Blogz News Team

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