Nashville couple plays defense on the field and in court

Ryann and Jurrell Casey (Courtesy: Casey family)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Nashville Public Defender’s Office, led by Public Defender Dawn Deaner, is made up of around 45 assistant public defenders.

Their job is to defend suspects who cannot afford a private attorney. One of those assistant public defenders is Ryann Casey, who is married to Titans Defensive End Jurrell Casey.

Casey says it was her childhood, living in two very different towns, that shaped her desire to become a defense attorney.

She spent part of her childhood in Oakland, California before moving to Bellevue Washington, where she attended high school.

Bellevue, an affluent suburb of Seattle, was a stark contrast to Oakland, in which 20 percent of people live at or below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Growing up in Oakland, you realize that people are getting arrested in higher rates; police are policing areas in higher rates in lower income communities. So in general, I noticed that just a lot of people [were] being arrested.”

She said, “I think the need for public defense or just defense in general comes from the fact that policing is happening at different rates in different communities.”

In other words, not everyone getting arrested was guilty of the crimes they were accused of. “We have a presumption of innocence to start this whole process off, so there should never be an assumption that somebody did something,” Casey said.

Ryann met future husband Jurrell Casey when the two were in college at the University of Southern California. They had a class together and their teacher assigned a group project.  “He actually flagged me down and was like ‘I want to be with her,’” she said.

After graduation, Ryann stayed in California, where she attended Loyola Law School.  Jurrell signed with the Titans and moved to Nashville.  “I am privileged to be in a position where I don’t technically have to work, but I’ve worked hard on my own to get this far, and just because my husband has a good job doesn’t mean that I won’t.   Also, like I said from the beginning, I wanted to make a difference and this is where I feel like I can do that.”

After law school, Ryann moved to Nashville to be with Jurrell and got a job at the Nashville Public Defender’s Office. “I like Nashville because it gives you the feeling of both a big city and a small town feel,” she said.

When not working, Ryann and Jurrell enjoying spending time at home with their English bull dog, Ray, and going out to eat at Nashville’s many restaurants. Recently, Ryann has started playing flag football with wives of other Titans players; Jurrell is their coach. “We’re a majority female team. I think it’s maybe two guys on our team, and the other teams are majority male, and we actually won the championship this year,” she said.

Ryann and Jurrell donate money through their non-profit, the Casey Fund. Ryann says the fund has two objectives. First, they support school resources and extra-curricular activities for children in low-income communities. Casey says the goal is to “stop the school to prison pipeline.” The second objective of their fund is to support persons who have just been released from prison, for example, by helping someone with the cost of housing as they get back on their feet.

Sitting on Ryann’s desk at work is a picture of the two of them.  Ryann is wearing a Titans jersey, and Jurrell is wearing a shirt that says “Real Men Marry Lawyers.” It is clear he is supportive and proud of her career.  “I like to tell people he is my biggest hype man.  He describes me as strong.  He’ll call me powerful even at home; he just describes me as a really good lawyer.” She said, “He is really proud of the fact that I continue with my goals, so even when I moved out here, I stayed in my path and continued  law school and continued kind of doing what I wanted to, do outside of him.”