Robin Conley Riner

Dr. Riner is associate professor of anthropology at Marshall. She has conducted ethnographic research on death penalty trials across Texas, investigating how the use of language shapes jurors’ experiences during trials and impacts their life and death decisions. Her book, Confronting the Death Penalty, published by Oxford University Press (2016), explores how jurors use language to counter moments of empathy they share with defendants, thereby justifying their decisions for death.

She is currently engaged in a new project, funded in part by a WV Humanities grant, that investigates killing in contexts of war. This research involves interviewing combat veterans of contemporary wars and examining military training practices to explore the “moral breakdown” that many veterans face both in combat and afterwards. She and her colleague, a veteran himself, hope to improve understanding of contemporary combat experiences in order to better facilitate veterans’ transitions into post-deployment life.

Dr. Riner teaches courses in cultural, linguistic, and legal anthropology. She has been a member of the Women’s Studies Board since 2012 and co-produces their production, Body Shots, every year. She also teaches dance in the community and performs with a local modern dance company, Jeslyn Dance Gallery.

Curriculum Vitae


Selected publications

Conley Riner, R. (2017). Discourses of Death: The influence of language on capital jurors’ decisions. Journal of Criminal Justice & Law 1(1):43-56.

Conley, R. (2016). Confronting the Death Penalty: How language influences jurors in capital cases. Oxford University Press.

Conley, R. (2013). Living with the Decision that Someone Will Die: Linguistic distance and empathy in jurors’ death penalty decisions. Language in SocietyPDF

Conley, R. & J.M. Conley (2009). Stories from the Jury Room: How jurors use narrative to process evidence. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society 49(2).  PDF

Conley, R. (2008). “At the time she was a man”: The temporal dimension of identity construction. Political and Legal Anthropology Review 31(1):28-47.  PDF


Selected courses

Linguistic Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology

Law, Culture & Society

Language, Gender and the Body

Theory in Ethnology: Anthropological Knowledge and Authority