After spending most of his adult life in prison, Lamonte McIntyre and three women who helped free him took the stage Thursday as hundreds gave a standing ovation.
The Midwest Innocence Project was holding a gala in a ballroom at the downtown Marriott, recognizing innocent people who have suffered unjust convictions.
McIntyre, a Kansas City, Kan., resident, spent 23 years in prison beginning when he was 17 after he was wrongfully convicted of double murder.
He told The Star at the gala that he's adjusting to freedom six months after the Midwest Innocence Project and attorney Cheryl Pilate helped win his release in Wyandotte County court in October.
McIntyre said that when he should have been learning about the obligations of adulthood, he was behind bars.
And six months after being freed, he said he remains uninsured.
"I got to rebuild," McIntyre said. "I got to have medical, dental, a job and a means to pay my bills. I'm starting now — 41 (years old) and I'm just now learning."
There is no legal requirement obligating the state of Kansas to compensate McIntyre for taking 23 years of his life.
Compensation requirements vary by state. Kansas is one of 18 states without compensation requirements for the wrongly convicted. If McIntyre had been wrongly imprisoned in Texas, he would have been eligible to receive $1.8 million.
McIntyre was joined at the gala by Amanda Knox, whose murder conviction was overturned in 2015 in Italy. Knox was the keynote speaker at the event.
She said she considered suicide and had terrible thoughts of spending decades in prison and becoming a stranger to her family. She was originally sentenced to 26 years, but her murder conviction was overturned about eight years after her roommate was killed.
"Innocent people suffer undeserved fates all the time," she said.
Richard Jones, who also attended, was released last year after serving 17 years in a purse-snatching case. The discovery of a doppelganger led to Jones' release.
The Midwest Innocence Project worked on Jones' behalf.
McIntyre is attending Headlines Barber Academy. In prison, he was trained as a barber and now has hopes to open his own salon.
McIntyre's mother, Rosie, and two relatives of the men McIntyre was wrongly convicted of killing were honored at the gala.
Lindsay Runnels, an attorney who worked on McIntyre's exoneration case, praised Rosie McIntyre, Gloria Labat and Saundra Newsom for not giving up in their fight for McIntyre's release.
"Their willingness to shine a bright light in dark places is why Lamonte is here with us tonight," Runnels said.
McIntyre said the event symbolized a moment of closure for his mother and the victims' relatives.
"I see healing with them," he said. "Justice came for me, the victims' family and for my mother."
It costs the Midwest Innocence Project approximately $100,000 to bring about one exoneration, said Graham Crow during the donation period of the event.
Donations to the Midwest Innocence Project can be made online.