A state judge Friday upheld the use of lethal injection in Kentucky (search), saying it was not cruel and unusual punishment.

Franklin Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden (search) said the method of execution should be changed to rule out one painful step, which the state says it has already done.

"The execution protocol adopted by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, with one exception, complies with the constitutional requirements against cruel and unusual punishment," Crittenden wrote.

The case was brought by condemned prisoners Thomas Clyde Bowling (search) and Ralph Baze (search). They argued that Kentucky's process of administering the lethal cocktail to death row inmates violated the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

While upholding lethal injection, the judge said the state should not be allowed to administer the fatal drugs through an intravenous catheter stuck into the prisoner's jugular vein, in the neck, if no suitable veins can be found in the arms or legs.

He said it was unconstitutionally cruel and should be removed from the process. Officials said they had already removed that step as an option.

Bowling was scheduled to be executed last November for the killing Edward and Tina Earley and shooting their 2-year-old son outside the couple's Lexington dry-cleaning business in 1990. His execution was delayed pending the outcome of the challenge.

Baze was convicted of killing Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett and a deputy Arthur Briscoe during an attempted arrest in 1992.

The state has executed one person by lethal injection, Eddie Lee Harper, in 1999.