A New York jury awarded nearly $7.6 million Friday to the widow of a young actor stabbed to death by prison writer and Norman Mailer protege Jack Henry Abbott.

Abbott, who wrote the bestseller "In the Belly of the Beast," acted as his own attorney in the wrongful death civil trial.

The suit was filed by Ricci Adan, 32. Abbott is serving a 15-years-to-life prison term for killing her husband, Richard Adan, 22, outside a Manhattan restaurant where he worked in 1981.

"In the Belly of the Beast" is composed of prison letters Abbott sent to Mailer from 1978 through 1981.

During those years, Abbott was imprisoned first for bank robbery and then for fatally stabbing another inmate. Mailer supported Abbott's parole, largely because of his writing talent. Abbott killed Adan six weeks after leaving prison.

About $100,000 Abbott earned from his book remains frozen in an escrow account set up in case he lost the suit. Another $15,000, also earned from his writings, is being held by the state Crime Victims Board.

Outside the courtroom, Adan and her family whooped, shouted and hugged each other to celebrate.

Abbott asked presiding Justice Carol Arber, "This is a little excessive, your honor, wouldn't you say?"

Mailer has been unavailable for comment on Abbott's latest court drama.